Western Washington is one of the teams the Saint Martin’s women’s basketball team looks up at as it tries to ascend the rungs of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
In the first half, the Saints looked like climbers, playing with flash and dash against the Vikings, who hold the third spot in the GNAC. In the second half, visiting Western asserted itself in front of a regional television audience, pulling away from a halftime deficit for a 66-57 victory at Marcus Pavilion in Lacey.
Saint Martin’s coach Tim Healy lamented a lost opportunity.
“We didn’t have the kind of verve you need to beat a good team,” said Healy, whose Saints (8-13, 5-8 GNAC) remain in contention for a berth in the conference postseason tournament. “We just should have handled ourselves better in the second half.”
Saints point guard Krista Stabler leads best when’s she’s looking for her shot and popping it with confidence. She scored 17 of her game-high 23 points in the first half to lead a high-energy SMU attack, which ran out to leads of 13-2, 17-4 and 30-16 before an unruffled Western team perked up. The Vikings outscored SMU 14-5 to close the half but still trailed 35-30.
The Saints didn’t help their cause to start the second half by turning it over three times in their first five possessions and making only one of their first 10 shots. Meanwhile, junior guard Taylor Peacocke, who led the Vikings with 19 points, made two free throws and a basket after a steal as WWU scored the first six points after halftime to take its first lead of the game, 36-35, at the 16:45 mark.
“It’s just inexplicable to me how we came out flat after the first half we played,” Healy said. “There’s just no excuse for it.”
The Saints led again at 37-36 and 39-38, but they were fighting uphill the rest of the way. An 18-6 Western run did much of the damage, and the Vikings took a double-digit lead at 58-47 with six minutes left.
The Saints sliced the lead to 59-53 when Liz Mills (16 points) rattled in a 15-footer with 4:16 left, but they got no closer.
Western (17-7, 11-4 GNAC) got 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds from Katie Colard, a senior from McCleary (Elma High), and 12 points from center Tia Briggs, a sophomore out of Wilson High.
No Saints joined Stabler and Mills in double figures, but Megan Wiedeman, a 6-foot junior, was strong on the boards with a game-high 15 rebounds.
Saint Martin’s is in a middle-of-the-pack tussle with Central Washington and Alaska (Fairbanks) for the fifth and sixth spots in the GNAC tournament.
“I feel like it’s a game we should have won,” Healy said, shaking his head. “When you beat one of the teams in front of you, it just gives you a leg up on the teams around you.”
For Saint Martin’s, Victor Ieronymides scored 15 points, and Riley Carel added 14.
Western Oregon led, 38-25, at halftime.