Dingus Leads Host Saints To Opening Round Win
Claire Dingus shot 8 of 19 from the floor for a game-high 23 points in Saint Martin's first-round win at the GNAC Championships. Photo by Ron Smith.
Claire Dingus shot 8 of 19 from the floor for a game-high 23 points in Saint Martin's first-round win at the GNAC Championships. Photo by Ron Smith.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

LACEY, Wash. – Claire Dingus recorded a 23-point, 13-rebound double-double, Tierney DeDonatis iced the game down the stretch and the ninth-seeded Saint Martin’s Saints utilized their home-court advantage to knock off eighth-seeded Western Oregon 71-62 in the first round of the GNAC Women’s Basketball Championships at Marcus Pavilion in Lacey.

Saint Martin’s won with their efficiency. Both teams made 21 field goals, but the Saints made 21 of 55 to shoot 38 percent from the field while Western Oregon went 21 of 65 to shoot 32 percent. Additionally, SMU shot 40 percent from three (4 of 10) compared to Western Oregon’s 26 percent (8 of 31).

Dingus led all scorers with her 23 points, and the 13 rebounds gave her her seventh double-double of the season. DeDonatis finished with 18 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Cali McClave led Western Oregon with 15 points, hitting 4 of 7 from three-point range, while McCarver contributed a well-rounded 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Saint Martin’s (13-13) advances to play top-seeded Western Washington in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 2:15 p.m. in Marcus Pavilion. The two teams met once during the regular season, an 81-48 WWU victory in Bellingham on Feb. 22. Western Oregon finishes its season at 9-17.

There may have been a few tournament jitters at play at first, as the two teams combined to miss the game’s first 11 field-goal attempts before Dingus hit a jumper with 6:11 to play in the first quarter. Western Oregon’s Alexis Wright was the star of the first quarter, grabbing four rebounds and scoring six points, the final two of which came near the buzzer.

The Saints outscored the Wolves 22-12 in the second period, and Dingus was at the center of it all. Saint Martin’s took the lead for the first time at 17-16 when Dingus drove the lane and dished to an open Lauryn Morris underneath the basket. On the next possession, Dingus threw up an off-balance jumper with the shot clock winding down that rattled home and the Saints were off on a 15-4 run, eventually taking a 30-24 lead into halftime.

The Wolves seemed to be threatening early in the third quarter. With Saint Martin’s up 35-30, WOU’s Madisyn Clark made a free throw, then missed the second, but Western Oregon got the rebound and kicked it out to Tresai McCarver for three and a 35-34 ballgame.

Saint Martin’s answered with an 8-0 run to push the distance back, however, punctuated with Dingus hitting a jumper and a wide open fastbreak layup off an ensuing WOU miss to make it 43-34 with 2:35 left in the third.

Western Oregon continued to make plays but never fully close the gap. Dingus appeared to be the most determined player on the court, fighting through a triple-team to finish in the post and give Saint Martin’s a 52-42 lead with 9:05 left, although Western Oregon cut into the lead with a four-point play from Cali McClave.

Saint Martin’s freshman Rian Clear and WOU’s Ana McClave each hit a two-pointer and three-pointer in quick succession, but the dueling baskets only served to maintain a slim Saints lead. Kaelin Williams-Kennedy’s layup brought the Wolves within one at 57-56 with 3:52 left, but Western Oregon wouldn’t get any closer.

In a physical game that turned even more so in the fourth quarter, Saint Martin’s excelled at getting to the line and converting, draining 25 of 29 free throw attempts. The Saints didn’t make a field goal for the final 5:27 of the game, but it didn’t matter, because they went 14 of 16 from the line during that time period.