Saint Martin's Prepares To Defend Home Court In Postseason
After being picked ninth in the preseason poll, Saint Martin's captured its third GNAC regular-season title in the last five seasons.
After being picked ninth in the preseason poll, Saint Martin's captured its third GNAC regular-season title in the last five seasons.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – Winning the conference title, let alone making the GNAC Championships, was but a dream for Saint Martin’s two years ago.

After a near-complete change in personnel following the Saints’ run to the NCAA West Regional in 2019, the Saints struggled to find a rhythm in the 2019-20 season, winning just six games and tying for 10th in the conference in Aaron Landon’s first year as head coach. Prior to the 2021-22 season, conference coaches picked the Saints to finish ninth.

Dreams do come true. Not only did Saint Martin’s rebound for its third winning season over the last five years, it earned the right to defend its home court as the No. 1 seed as the GNAC Men’s Basketball Championships begin on Wednesday at Marcus Pavilion in Lacey, Washington.

With an 18-8 overall record and an 11-6 conference mark, the Saints earned the regular-season title in the GNAC’s points rating system rankings. It is just the second time in men’s tournament history that the host team has earned the No. 1 seed.

The Saints earned that right with a dynamic mix of scoring and defense. Averaging 78.8 points per game, the Saints rank third in Division II in three-point shooting at 42.7 percent while also ranking second in the GNAC overall field goal percentage (.586) and assists (16.3 per game). At the same time, SMU ranks second in the GNAC in scoring defense (68.5 points allowed per game) and three-point defense (.335) and third in rebounding (36.0 per game) and steals (seven per game).

Senior forward Brett Reed leads Saint Martin’s. After last playing for Chaminade in 2017-18, Reed is averaging 13.9 points per game while ranking second in the GNAC with 8.5 rebounds per contest and fifth in field goal percentage (.570).

Reed is complemented by a pair of talented sophomore guards in Alex Schumacher and Kyle Greeley. Schumacher is the team’s leading scorer at 14.3 points per game while Greeley is averaging 13.5 points per game. Freshman guard Jaden Nielsen-Skinner adds a solid distributor to the lineup, ranking 19th in Division II with 5.5 assists per game.

A year removed from its run to the NCAA West Regional championship game, Northwest Nazarene battled to a 10-5 conference record to earn the tournament’s No. 2 seed. The Nighthawks have excelled on defense, leading the conference in rebounding (39.2 per game), field goal defense (.407), three-point defense (.308) and steals (8.4 per game). The team’s 12.5 offensive rebounds per game ranks 31st in Division II.

Sophomore forward James Nelson has provided solid leadership after missing two months of the season due to injury. In 12 games, Nelson is averaging 15.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 45.3 percent from three-point range. Sophomore guard George Reidy averages 13.7 points and 1.8 steals per game per game while sophomore Gabriel Murphy leads the GNAC with 8.2 rebounds per game to go with his 11.2 points per contest. Guard Tru Allen has started all but one game in his freshman campaign, averaging 12.2 points per game.

Alaska Anchorage surprised some with its run to the 2020 GNAC Championships final as the No. 5 seed but will surprise no one in 2022 as the No. 3 seed. The Seawolves finished the regular season at 14-8 with a 9-6 GNAC record, securing that No. 3 seed by winning three of their last four games. A team that thrives on outside shooting, UAA is second in the conference in three-point percentage (.381) and ranks eighth in Division II with 10.7 three-pointers made per game.

Senior forward Oggie Pantovic set the pace in the frontcourt. The one of two players to rank in the GNAC top 10 in both scoring and rebounding, Pantovic ranks fourth with 8.3 rebounds per game and eighth with 15.9 points per game. Junior guard Tobin Karlberg is fifth in the conference in scoring at 17.7 points per game and is eighth in field goal shooting at 55.5 percent. Senior forward Hunter Sweet found second life after Concordia’s closure, averaging 14.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, as has senior guard David Rowlands, who ranks 30th in Division II with five assists per game after transferring from Hawaii Pacific.

Montana State Billings earned the No. 4 seed on the strength of a solid resume that included a road win over Saint Martin’s and a season sweep of Central Washington. One of the conference’s top defensive teams, the Yellowjackets lead the GNAC in scoring defense at 66.6 points allowed per game while limiting opponents to 32 rebounds per game.

The Yellowjackets have placed its hopes on the back of two dynamic guards. Junior Carrington Wiggins is sixth in the GNAC in scoring at 17.5 points per game and has two 30-point performances this season, led by 34 against the Saints on Feb. 3. Senior Damen Thacker averages 15.3 points per game and also owns a pair of 30-point efforts this season. Thacker is also one of the top free-throw shooters in the GNAC, ranking fourth (.852). Freshman center Emmanuel Ajanaku has developed into one of the conference’s top rebounders, ranking sixth with 6.9 boards per game.

Central Washington, the No. 5 seed, put together one of the best overall records in the conference at 15-8. The GNAC’s top scoring team at 83.4 points per game, ranking 28th in Division II, the Wildcats lead the conference in field goal percentage (.494) while ranking second in free-throw percentage (.774).

The Wildcats feature four players that average in double-figure scoring. Senior guard Xavier Smith is second in the conference at 19 points per game while leading the GNAC and ranking 30th in Division II in free throw shooting at 86.9 percent. Senior guard David Thompson is averaging 15.2 points per game, 10th in the GNAC. Senior forward Marqus Gilson averages 13.1 points per game while junior Matt Poquette averages 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest.

Seattle Pacific is the No. 6 seed in the tournament after winning the regular-season championship two years ago. The Falcons are averaging 74.2 points and 33 rebounds per game with an experienced lineup. One of the top free throw shooting teams in Division II, the Falcons rank third nationally at 80.5 percent.

Senior guard Divant’e Moffitt paces the SPU offense, ranking third in the GNAC at 19 points per game and eighth with 3.8 assists per contest. Junior forward Shaw Anderson averages 14 points per game while senior guard Harry Cavell averages 13.4 points per contest. The team’s defensive leader, Cavell leads the Falcons with 5.9 rebounds per game and is sixth in the GNAC in free throw shooting at 82.8 percent.

After not playing at all in 2020-21, Simon Fraser enters the tournament as the No. 7 seed. Simon Fraser started the season strong, winning six of its first nine games of the season. It seemed to always pull off the upset on its home floor, scoring victories in the West Gym over Seattle Pacific, Saint Martin’s and Western Washington.

Simon Fraser is led by senior forward Julian Roche, who averages 13.1 points per game while ranking third in the GNAC with 8.4 rebounds per game. Junior guard Wilfried Balata is averaging 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest while sophomore guard David Penney ranks third in the conference with 4.7 assists per game.

No. 8 seed Western Washington rounds out eight GNAC squads to finish the regular season with overall records at .500 or better. The Vikings are second in the GNAC in both scoring (80 points per game) and rebounding (36.2 per game) and sit third with a .482 field goal percentage.

Junior forward Jalen Green is the team’s top scorer and rebounder, ranking seventh in the GNAC with 15.9 points per game and eighth with 6.4 boards per contest. Junior guard Daniel Hornbuckle is averaging 13.9 points per game and ranks second in the conference with three three-pointers made per game. Sophomore guard D’Angelo Minnis averages 12.4 points per game and is fourth in the conference with 4.4 rebounds per contest.

Western Oregon is the No. 9 seed after averaging 72.4 points and 32.3 rebounds per game during the regular season. The Wolves boast one of the conference’s top scorers in junior guard Cameron Cranston, who is fourthin the GNAC at 18.8 points per game. Junior forward John Morrill-Keeler averages 11.5 points per game and is the team’s leading rebounder at 6.8 boards per contest.

Alaska is the No. 10 seed and is led by senior guard Shadeed Shabazz. The 2020 GNAC Player of the Year leads the conference in scoring with 19.2 points while ranking third in Division II with three steals per game. Senior guard Quin Barnard averages 12.6 points per game and is 12th in Division II with 3.25 three-pointers made per contest. Senior forward Coleman Sparling is the conference’s top rebounder with 8.5 per game.

The GNAC Men’s Basketball Championships begin on Wednesday with No. 8 Western Washington taking on No. 9 Western Oregon in Lacey while No. 7 Simon Fraser and No. 10 Alaska face off in Seattle. Both games begin at 4:30 p.m.

The quarterfinals take place on Thursday. In Lacey, No. 4 seed Montana State Billings and No. 5 Central Washington play at 5:15 p.m. while No. 1 Saint Martin’s hosts the winner of the Western Oregon/Western Washington game at 7:30 p.m. In Seattle, No. 2 Northwest Nazarene will play the winner of the Simon Fraser/Alaska game at 5:15 p.m. with No. 3 Alaska Anchorage and No. 6 Seattle Pacific squaring off at 7:30 p.m.

The semifinals and championship games will be played at Marcus Pavilion on the campus of Saint Martin’s University.

All games at the GNAC Men’s Basketball Championships will be streamed live at Tickets for the tournament are available for advance purchase at