Chavez Leads Saints Strong Into GNAC Championships Final
Chavez, the GNAC Newcomer of the Year, shot 8 of 16 from the field and 3 of 6 from three-point range. Photo by Skip Hickey.
Chavez, the GNAC Newcomer of the Year, shot 8 of 16 from the field and 3 of 6 from three-point range. Photo by Skip Hickey.

Friday, March 2, 2018

ANCHORAGE – After leading by as much as 15 points in the first half, Saint Martin’s needed a 17-foot jumper by junior guard Luke Chavez with 2.6 seconds left to lead the No. 3 seed Saints to a 69-68 victory over No. 2 seed Western Washington in the semifinals of the GNAC Men’s Basketball Championships at the Alaska Airlines Center.

After the Vikings’ Trey Drechsel hit a free throw with 4.3 seconds left for a one-point WWU lead, the Saints bounced the ball past mid-court to Chavez, who dribbled twice and floated in the game-winner. Drechsel had a chance for the win with a three-pointer at horn which fell short.

Chavez led the Saints with 20 points, connecting on 8 of 16 from the field and 3 of 6 from three-point range as the Saints shot 47.2 percent from the field. BJ Standley came off the bench for 11 points while EJ Boyce added 10 points. Matt Dahlen finished with 10 rebounds.

Deandre Dickson led Western Washington with a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds on 7 of 16 from the field and 7 of 12 from the free throw line. Trevor Jaskinsky finished with 14 points and Daulton Hommes had a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Saints (24-6) will play either No. 1 seed Western Oregon or No. 4 seed Seattle Pacific in tomorrow night’s championship final at 5:15 p.m. (Alaska time) with the winner earning the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division II Championship. Western Washington drops to 21-8 overall.

Both teams started the game at a torrid shooting pace. At one point, the Vikings shot 70 percent from the floor, but the Saints neutralized that by making four more shots than the Vikings in the opening 20 minutes. Jared Mathews opened up the 15-9 Saint Martin’s lead with his lay-in at the 14:28 mark, but a 9-2 run for Western Washington, which culminated on Dickson’s jumper with 12:23 to go, gave the Vikings the lead at 18-17.

At the point, however, the Vikings went cold as they were outscored 18-3 by the Saints over the next 6:46. Twelve of those points came on three-pointers, with the run ending of Boyce’s trey for a 35-21 lead with 5:13 left in the period. But from there it was SMU that went cold as the team went scoreless over the final 4:44. The Vikings took advantage with an 8-0 run as Dickson put in a pair of lay-ins and Jasinsky contributed a lay-up and a free throw to bring WWU within 39-31 at the half.

Shooting played out even over the first six minutes of the second half, but then the Vikings got hot from the field. Siaan Rojas’ lay-in sparked a 17-8 WWU run over the next six minutes, which culminated on Hommes’ jumper with 7:22 left that brought the Vikings within 58-57 with 7:22 left.

The Saints extended the lead back to 67-59 on a Jordan Kitchen lay-in with 2:51 left, but then went without a score until Chavez’s game-winner. The Vikings went on a 9-0 run during the stretch, with Jasinsky tying the game at 67-67 with his three-pointer with 40 seconds to go. Saint Martin’s appeared to catch a break with an offensive foul call with 4.4 seconds left, but the call was reversed to a block upon officials’ review, allowing Drechsel the free throw that put WWU up by one.