The end-of-season scenario is simple for the Saint Martin’s women: win.
They did Thursday night — getting a 69-67 overtime victory over Northwest Nazarene, sparked by Krista Stabler’s 30-foot banked 3-pointer as time expired to send the game into overtime — and hope to ride the momentum into Saturday’s regular-season finale against Central Washington and lock up a spot in next week’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament, hosted by Montana State-Billings.
Mathematically, the Saints aren’t in yet. The top four spots in the six-team single-elimination tournament, which starts next Wednesday, are secured, but a win against CWU will do it. A loss still could, too, depending on Saturday’s Alaska-Anchorage/Montana State-Billings outcome. MSUB holds the tiebreaker over the Saints in head-to-head competition.
“We’re happy to have a chance to win, and happy to have a chance to make the tournament,” Saints coach Tim Healy said.
Saint Martin’s win Thursday, coupled with a loss by MSUB and a victory by Central Washington, pulled some separation from what was a three-way tie for fifth place between those three teams entering the day. The Saints and Wildcats are now tied for fifth at 7-10 in conference; MSUB and Alaska-Fairbanks are both at 6-11.
While the Saints’ defense forced NNU to 27.9 percent shooting and held their two leading scorers, Ellie Logan and Taylor Simmons, to a combined 5 of 31 from the floor, the Crusaders (7-19 overall, 5-12) still had a six-point lead at 50-44 with 4 minutes, 58 seconds to play in the second half. This was after trailing, 38-31, minutes after halftime.
Brooke Paulson had all 15 of her points in the second half, and Stabler’s only second-half field goal was her 30-foot heave as the Saints trailed 58-55 with 4.4 seconds to go, traveling the length of the floor for what she called one of the most dramatic shots of her basketball career.
“I didn’t have many opportunities to get shots in the second half,” Stabler said, “but I still have confidence in myself. I knew there was four seconds, and said ‘I’m going to sprint up the court and I’m going to make something happen.’ ”
Since the career-ending knee injury (torn ACL) to senior Angela Gelhar on Feb. 7, Healy’s had to shuffle his lineup, which has led to more minutes and production from freshman forward Elin Johansson.
Johansson, from Sweden, had what Healy called the best game of her young career, finishing with 15 points (tied for the team lead with Paulson) and six rebounds.
Junior Megan Wiedeman finished with a double-double of 13 points, 19 rebounds and six blocks. Her first block, at the 8:24 mark in the first half, set a single-season blocks record (43), surpassing Juanita Mebane’s 42 blocks in the 1997-98 season.
“She’s a fun player to watch, and she’s so long and has such great timing,” Healy said.