LACEY — Saint Martin’s women’s basketball coach Tim Healy knows every game from here on is a must-win if the Saints want to make the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament at Marcus Pavilion the first week of March.
The Saints started January on a roll by winning four of their first five games but since have lost four in a row, including a 49-41 defeat to Northwest Nazarene on Thursday night with Central Washington coming to town Saturday night.
The Saints (11-11 overall, 4-8 GNAC) are in seventh place with six regular-season games to go. The top six teams make the postseason tournament.
CWU, after a 78-72 loss at Western Oregon on Thursday, is a half-game behind SMU.
“It’s a tough situation,” Healy said. “We played a great defensive game again, but we didn’t make enough plays.”
Scoring lulls, a problem for the youthful Saints all season, happened in both halves against the Crusaders (16-3, 8-3). They didn’t score until 11:19 to go in the first half, and still trailed only 25-20 at halftime, thanks to a 13-2 closing spurt.
The second-half scoring drought lasted the first six minutes until sophomore Jordyn Richardson made her first field goal on a spin move in the lane. That cut Northwest Nazarene’s lead to 35-22.
After the Saints slipped behind 37-22 at the 12:02 mark, the offense kicked in gear.
Spearheaded by Richardson’s seven points in a 17-3 run, the Saints cut NNU’s double-digit lead to 40-39 with 4:24 to play – capped by Angela Gelhar’s 3-pointer.
Richardson also had two clutch 3-pointers during the run.
Richardson, Gelhar and Chelsea Haskey finished with nine points apiece.
Haskey’s bucket with 2:54 to go cut the Saints’ deficit to 42-41, but that was the final field goal for SMU. Haskey fouled out with 1:26 remaining.
Megan Hingston paced the Crusaders with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The Saints forced NNU into 18 turnovers and 30.2 percent shooting (16 of 53 field goals).
“That’s what’s kept us in this season is our defensive effort,” Richardson said.
Saint Martin’s 60, Alaska Anchorage 52: The Saints snapped their four-game skid and handed the Seawolves just their second loss in eight games.
The Saints did it with their two big men – Rei Jensen and Matt Dodson – on the bench for most of the second half.
Dodson suffered ankle and knee injuries two minutes into the second half and did not return. Jensen picked up his fourth foul with 13:48 left in the game, and also stayed on the bench.
Four players finished in double figures, led by Evan Coulter’s 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 6-of-9 free-throw accuracy. Roger O’Neill had all 14 of his points in the second half, and Brady Bomber and Will Bond finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
After trailing 25-21 at halftime, the Saints (7-12, 3-8) took their first second-half lead at 29-27, and a 3-pointer by Bond gave the Saints their largest lead at 48-40.
Alaska Anchorage (14-6, 7-5) used a 10-0 run to take a two-point lead at 50-48 on Kyle Fossman’s 3.
Bomber hit his third 3 inside a minute left to give the Saints a five-point edge.