Saints Survive Wildcats' Run In Overtime Quarterfinal Tilt
Junior guard EJ Boyce led five Saint Martin's players in double-figure scoring with 15 points. Photo by Skip Hickey.
Junior guard EJ Boyce led five Saint Martin's players in double-figure scoring with 15 points. Photo by Skip Hickey.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

ANCHORAGE – After shooting lights out in the first half, Saint Martin’s had to hold on in the extra period as the No. 3 seeded Saints survived with an 87-84 win over No. 6 seed Central Washington in the quarterfinals of the GNAC Men’s Basketball Championships at the Alaska Airlines Center.

The Wildcats forced overtime when Jawan Stepney hit a 17-footer with six seconds left, tying the contest at 76-76. The overtime played close until a pair of Rhett Baerlocher free throws put the Saints ahead 85-81 with 19 seconds to go. Free throws by Baerlocher and EJ Boyce, along with a pair of defensive stops, allowed SMU to escape with the win. The game was just the second overtime battle in tournament history.

With the victory, the Saints advance to play No. 2 seed Western Washington in the semifinals on Friday at noon (Alaska time).

Boyce led five Saint Martin’s players in double figures with 15 points. BJ Standley came off the bench to add 13 points while Jordan Kitchen and Luke Chavez each had 12. Matt Dahlen finished just short of a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds. The Saints finished the game shooting 46 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range.

Khalil Shabazz, the GNAC Freshman of the Year, led the Wildcats with 23 points on 7 of 13 from the field. Sage Woodruff came off the bench for 15 points and Jawan Stepney added 11. The Wildcats finished the game shooting 46 percent from the field.

Saint Martin’s improved to 23-6 with the win while Central Washington ends its season at 15-13.

Saint Martin’s wasted little time setting its torrid shooting pace, jumping out to the 8-0 lead on Kitchen’s jumper less than two minutes into the period. The Saints made it a 19-10 lead on Jared Mathews’ free throw at the 14:28 mark. The lead was still nine points with 12:01 to go when Naim Ladd sparked a 16-7 run over the next four minutes with Cameron Williams tying it at 26-26 with his jumper with 6:11 left in the period.

The teams traded buckets before the Saints closed the half with a 12-4 run over the final four minutes of the half. Cameron Chatwin gave SMU the 10-point lead with his three-pointer with 16 seconds left as the Saints went into half with the 42-34 lead. Saint Martin’s finished the stanza shooting 60 percent from the field and 58.3 percent (7-12) from beyond the arc.

The Saints stayed hot from the field over the first 10 minutes of the season half, taking a 56-44 lead on Tavian Henderson’s lay-in and the building a game-best 67-53 advantage on Kitchen’s three-pointer, but foul trouble for Chavez and Dahlen opened the door for the Wildcats to tighten things up. Chavez would foul out of the game with 1:20 left in the second half, which proved a game-changing factor.

Shabazz brought CWU within one, 69-68, with his lay-in with 2:44 left, only to watch SMU go on a 5-0 run to take the 74-68 advantage on Standley’s free throws with a minute left in regulation. Woodruff closed the game to within 76-74 with his three-pointer with 16 seconds left and Stepney forced overtime when his 17-footer with six seconds left tied it at 76-76.

The hot hand didn’t last for the Wildcats as they shot just 1 for 9 in the final five minutes. The Saints built the four-point lead late on the two Baerlocher free throws before Woodruff hit the Wildcats’ lone field goal of the period, a three-pointer, with 15 seconds left.