Three-Way Tie For Second As Race Heats Up
Northwest Nazarene leaned on bench players like Emma Clark (No. 11) to defeat Western Oregon without their top two scorers. NNU is one of three teams at 5-2 in the GNAC standings.
Northwest Nazarene leaned on bench players like Emma Clark (No. 11) to defeat Western Oregon without their top two scorers. NNU is one of three teams at 5-2 in the GNAC standings.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The good news? GNAC women’s basketball played eight games this week against only two postponements.

The even better news? The conference race is as wide open as it’s ever been thanks to a pair of substantial winning streaks that have created a three-way tie for second at 5-2.

Central Washington won a trio of GNAC games to extend their win streak to seven games. The Wildcats’ Big Three were up to their usual tricks as Kizzah Maltezo and Kassidy Malcolm each averaged over 21 points per game over the three contests. Samantha Bowman had three games with 14 rebounds or more, including a 20-point, 20-rebound performance against Simon Fraser that was her third 20/20 game of the season.

Montana State Billings has also won three in a row. Despite the length of CWU’s streak, MSUB can probably lay claim to being the GNAC team nobody wants to face right now. The Yellowjackets put a 26-point demolishing on Seattle Pacific, shooting 47 percent from the field and 52 percent from beyond the arc. Alongside their January 17 road win over Alaska Anchorage, MSUB was honored as the GNAC Team of the Week from January 17-23.  

Northwest Nazarene is also at 5-2 after a pair of wins against Western Oregon and Saint Martin’s. The Nighthawks reeled off the victories despite playing without leading scorer and rebounder Teagan Thurman for both games and second-leading scorer and rebounder Nyalam Thabach for one out of two. In their stead, Erin Jenkins had a career week, averaging 21.5 points and seven rebounds, including a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double.

The three-way scrap for second doesn’t even include perennial power Alaska Anchorage, who is tied for fifth at 3-2. The Seawolves suffered a historic home loss to MSUB, which was their first setback at the Alaska Airlines Center since 2016. But then UAA dropped another home game to No. 9/10 Western Washington in an anticipated clash of the titans that gained new intrigue when both teams were upset the week prior.

GNAC Player of the Week Emma Duff had 21 points, seven rebounds and three steals to shine in what was otherwise a defensive battle, as Western Washington overcame 26 turnovers to defeat the Seawolves 53-45. Duff then scored another 19 points with eight rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal to pace WWU to a victory over Alaska, making the Vikings the first team to earn an Alaska road sweep since Simon Fraser in February 2016. At 4-1, Western Washington leads the conference standings and regained their status as a consensus top-ten team, ranking at No. 9 in the WBCA Coaches Poll and No. 10 in the D2SIDA Media Poll.

Saint Martin’s dropped another two games despite the best efforts of their best players. Rian Clear set the GNAC season’s new single-game high with 34 points against Central Washington, while Claire Dingus scored 23 in that game and averaged 22.5 points and 9.5 rebounds for the week, but Saint Martin’s still went 0-2.      

An extra-full slate of 11 games awaits us from Thursday to Sunday, including three-game road trips for each of the Alaska schools. A significant rematch between Alaska Anchorage and Montana State Billings looms on Thursday as the Seawolves will look to stop their two-game losing streak by going on the road to face the team that started it. Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington will also battle head-to-head for the second time this season in a game with substantial seeding implications.


Emma Duff
Western Washington
G • 6-0 • Sr. • Tumwater, Wash.
Duff averaged 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, three blocks and 2.5 assists per game as the Vikings swept the Alaska road trip. Duff led all scorers with 21 points with seven rebounds, three blocks, an assist and a steal in Thursday’s 53-45 win at Alaska Anchorage. She also led all scorers with 19 points in Saturday’s 79-67 win at Alaska to go with eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks. She made 5 of 11 from the field, 4 of 7 from three-point range and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line. For the week, Duff shot 52.4 percent from the field, 57.1 percent from three-point range and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line.

Also Nominated:
Tennae Voliva (Alaska Anchorage), Kassidy Malcolm (Central Washington), Cariann Kunkel (Montana State Billings), Erin Jenkins (Northwest Nazarene), Claire Dingus (Saint Martin’s), Tresai McCarver (Western Oregon)


• Alaska hung tough with nationally-ranked Western Washington, staying within single digits for much of the second half before falling 79-67 on Saturday. The Nanooks’ other scheduled game against Simon Fraser was postponed.
• Freshman guard Claudia Diez Marti led four Nanooks to score in double figures with a 15-point effort off the bench, making 6 of a team-high 17 field goal attempts. It was Diez Marti’s fourth consecutive game in double figures. She is averaging 10.5 points per game this season.
• Sophomore forward Olivia Kraska tallied a season-high 12 points to go with three rebounds, while freshman Paola Perez-Mendoza set a career-high with 12 points while adding six assists and four steals. Perez-Mendoza ranks fourth in the GNAC with 3.9 assists per game. She leads the conference and ranks 37th in Division II with 2.6 steals per game.
Pearle Green scored 11 points on 4 of 12 shooting, including 3 of 9 from three-point range. Green ranks fifth in Division II with 3.36 made threes per game. She is sixth in the conference in scoring with 15.7 points per game.
• The Nanooks are averaging 61.8 points and 36.7 rebounds per game. They rank third in the conference with 9.7 steals per game and fifth with 3.1 blocked shots per game.
• Alaska will visit Seattle Pacific on Thursday and Montana State Billings for a doubleheader on Saturday and Sunday.

• Alaska Anchorage lost a nationally-ranked showdown with Western Washington, falling 53-45 at home to the Vikings. The Seawolves’ other scheduled game with Simon Fraser was postponed.
• Coupled with their January 17 loss to Montana State Billings, the Seawolves have lost back-to-back games for the first time since March 2014. After winning 41 consecutive home GNAC games, Alaska Anchorage has now lost their past two.
Tennae Voliva led UAA with 10 points and five rebounds, shooting 3 of 7 from the field and 4 of 4 from the line. Voliva is averaging 9.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Junior point guard Nicole Pinckney also had 10 points along with three assists and three steals. Pinckney ranks fifth in the GNAC with 3.8 assists per game.  
• Junior forward Kimani Fernandez tied both season and career highs with 10 rebounds against WWU, including a staggering eight offensive rebounds. Fernandez is averaging 4.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
• Befitting their patented “Mayhem” defense, the Seawolves forced 26 WWU turnovers in Thursday’s game, a season-high for the Vikings. Alaska Anchorage leads the GNAC and ranks 14th in Division II with 12.8 steals per game. They rank 12th in Division II with 23.85 turnovers forced per game and 8th with a +8.0 turnover margin. The Seawolves have been struggling to convert possessions into points, however, ranking second to last in the conference in field goal percentage and last in free throw percentage.
• The consecutive conference home losses have hurt UAA in the rankings. One week after being a consensus top-eight team, the Seawolves rank No. 19 in the WBCA Coaches Poll and fell out of the D2SIDA Media Poll completely, although they still received votes. In the D2SIDA West Region rankings, they fell from No. 1 into a tie for fifth.
• Alaska Anchorage will look to get right on the road, facing Montana State Billings on Thursday before two straight against Seattle Pacific on Saturday and Sunday.

• Central Washington ran their winning streak to seven with a trio of conference wins. The Wildcats beat Saint Martin’s 90-75 on Thursday and Western Oregon 74-55 on Saturday at home before traveling to Burnaby to knock off Simon Fraser 72-60 on Tuesday.
Kassidy Malcolm took the offensive lead for the Wildcats, averaging 21.7 points per game over the three contests. Malcolm did most of her damage over the weekend, scoring 28 points on 12 of 20 shooting against Saint Martin’s before adding 22 on 9 of 12 shooting against WOU. Malcolm is averaging 17.9 points per game, which ranks second in the GNAC.
• The only player scoring more than Malcolm is teammate Kizzah Maltezo. Maltezo had a monster game of her own against Saint Martin’s with 27 points, including six three-pointers, and six steals. Maltezo added 18 points against Western Oregon and 22 against Simon Fraser. She is averaging 20.1 points per game this season.
Samantha Bowman continues to be an absolute force on the boards. Over the weekend, Bowman tallied 14 rebounds in back-to-back games, also scoring 14 on Thursday for her 10th double-double of the season. On Tuesday, Bowman scored 20 points and 20 rebounds for her third 20/20 game of the season. With that effort, Bowman now holds the entire top five and seven of the top nine single-game rebounding performances in the GNAC this year. Her 15.3 rebounds per game rank second in Division II.
• The Wildcats are now tied for fifth in the D2SIDA West Region rankings with fellow GNAC school Alaska Anchorage, up from sixth last week. They received one first-place vote in the poll.
• Central Washington plays just once this week, hosting Northwest Nazarene on Saturday.

• Montana State Billings defeated Seattle Pacific 81-55 on Saturday to claim a share of second place in the conference standings.
• Between the SPU victory and their streak-breaking 24-point road victory over Alaska Anchorage from January 17, the Yellowjackets were honored as the GNAC Team of the Week from January 17-23.
• The Yellowjackets held the Falcons to 32.1 percent shooting, the third consecutive game MSUB held an opponent to under 33 percent. Meanwhile, the Yellowjackets themselves were on fire offensively, hitting 47 percent from the field and 52 percent from beyond the arc. Guards Kortney Nelson and Aspen Giese both went a perfect 3-for-3 on three-point attempts.
Danielle Zahn led a balanced scoring attack with 15 points and seven assists. Zahn shot 5 of 8 from the field and 2 of 3 from deep. She ranks 10th in the GNAC with a .345 three-point percentage and seventh with 3.2 assists per game.
Cariann Kunkel matched Zahn with 15 points while adding four rebounds, three assists and a block. Kunkel was 6 of 9 from the field and 2 of 2 from the line. She ranks fifth in the GNAC with a .521 field goal percentage and seventh with a .797 free throw percentage.
• Montana State Billings ranked No. 9 in the most recent D2SIDA West Region rankings. Previously, they had only received votes in the poll for seven straight weeks.
• The Yellowjackets have another stretch of three games in four days, but this time they will be at home for all three. They face No. 19 Alaska Anchorage on Thursday before a doubleheader against Alaska on Saturday and Sunday.

• Northwest Nazarene climbed into a share of second place with a pair of home wins. The Nighthawks defeated Western Oregon 73-66 on Thursday and Saint Martin’s 78-65 on Saturday.
• In the absence of Teagan Thurman and Nyalam Thabach, NNU’s top two scorers and rebounders, Erin Jenkins played her best basketball of the season to lead the Nighthawks. The junior averaged 21.5 points and seven rebounds in the two victories, including a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double against Western Oregon. It was the second double-double of Jenkins’ career and her first since 2019. Jenkins then led all scorers with 23 points along with four rebounds and five assists against Saint Martin’s.
• Thabach missed the Western Oregon game but returned with a vengeance against Saint Martin’s, scoring 20 points in 20 minutes off the bench. Thabach shot 7 of 12 from the field and 6 of 7 from the line while adding six rebounds, two steals and a block. Thabach ranks 10th in the GNAC with 12.9 points per game and eighth with 7.4 rebounds per game.
• Guard Jordan Pinson averaged 15.5 points and 5.5 assists over the two games, highlighted by 18 points, five assists and four steals against Western Oregon. Pinson ranks sixth in the GNAC with 3.5 assists per game.
• Northwest Nazarene moved up two spots to No. 7 in the D2SIDA West Region rankings. They lead the GNAC with 41.5 rebounds per game.
• The Nighthawks will host Western Oregon on Thursday and Saint Martin’s on Saturday.

• Saint Martin’s continued to slide, losing 90-75 at Central Washington on Thursday and 78-65 at Northwest Nazarene on Saturday.
 • The Saints fell to the Wildcats despite a couple of fantastic individual performances. Rian Clear set a GNAC single-game high with 34 points in Thursday’s game, making 14 of 20 attempts from the field, 4 of 6 from deep and 2 of 2 from the line. Clear ranks eighth in the GNAC with 14.6 points per game this season.
Claire Dingus also had a productive week. Against CWU, Dingus scored 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting, meaning Dingus and Clear combined for 57 of SMU’s 75 points. Against the Nighthawks on Saturday, Dingus recorded a 22-point, 12-rebound double-double with four steals. She ranks third in the GNAC in both points (17.1) and rebounds (7.9) per game. Dingus also leads the conference in minutes per game (34.6) and played all 40 minutes of both games this week.
Tierney DeDonatis had 11 assists against CWU, setting a season high. DeDonatis has two of the three 10-plus assist games in the GNAC this year. DeDonatis averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 assists per game this week. She leads the conference with 4.6 assists per game this season.
• Saint Martin’s allowed their second-highest and third-highest point totals of the season this week, dropping their stout scoring defense from third to fifth in the GNAC at 62.2 points per game. The Saints are averaging 64 points and a GNAC-low 36 rebounds per game.
• The Saints dropped completely out of the D2SIDA West Region rankings after receiving votes in the poll last week.
• Saint Martin’s will get to stay at Marcus Pavilion this week, hosting No. 9/10 Western Washington on Thursday and Simon Fraser on Saturday.

• Seattle Pacific endured a tough road loss to a red-hot MSUB, falling 81-55 on Saturday in Billings.
• With leading scorer Ashley Alter sitting out, no Falcon was able to crack double figures against an airtight Yellowjacket defense. Kaprice Boston led the way with nine points and eight rebounds for SPU, which included four offensive boards.
• A potentially significant piece made her way back into the fold for the Falcons, as senior guard Rachel Berg made her season debut. Berg shot 3 of 7 from the field, including 3 of 5 from three-point range, to finish level with Boston at a team-high nine points. Berg averaged 11.1 points per game in 14 contests during the 2020-21 season.
• Forward Natalie Hoff had eight points and pulled in six rebounds. Hoff ranks ninth in the GNAC at 7.1 rebounds per game.
• Despite scoring the fewest points in the GNAC at 60 per game, SPU is firmly in contention for a top-half finish thanks to their defense. The Falcons are holding opponents to 35 percent shooting for the season, a figure that ranks second in the GNAC and 23rd in Division II. They are also not allowing second chances for their opponents, leading the conference and ranking 26th in Division II with 29.4 defensive rebounds per game.
• The Falcons will play three games in four days at Royal Brougham Pavilion, hosting Alaska on Thursday before welcoming No. 19 Alaska Anchorage for two straight on Saturday and Sunday.

• Simon Fraser played their first game in 17 days on Tuesday, losing to the streaking Central Washington Wildcats 72-60 at home.
Jessica Jones continued to cement her status as the focal point of the SFU offense since returning to the team earlier this month. She recorded a double-double with a team-high 15 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 6 of 18 from the floor and 3 of 7 from three-point range. Jones also distributed a team-high five assists. In four games this year, Jones is averaging 18.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Those figures would rank second and 10th in the conference, respectively, if she had played sufficient minutes to qualify.
• Center Claudia Hart also saw a lot of the ball against the Wildcats. Hart shot 5 of 17 from the field to finish with 11 points, along with seven rebounds and four assists. Hart is averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
• Sophomore guard Grace Killins provided a shooting spark off the bench, draining 3 of 5 three-point attempts to finish with nine points. Killins ranks ninth in the GNAC with 1.5 made threes per game.
• As a team, Simon Fraser makes 8.1 threes per game, which ranks second in the GNAC and 28th in Division II. They rank third in the conference in scoring offense (71.1 points per game), assists (15.6 per game) and three-point percentage (.320).
• The loss to Central kicked off a stretch in six games in 13 days for SFU. They travel to Western Oregon on Thursday and Saint Martin’s on Saturday.

• Western Oregon dropped a pair of road conference games, losing 73-66 to NNU on Thursday and 74-55 to Central Washington on Saturday.
Tresai McCarver was the best offensive player of the week for WOU, averaging 9.5 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists per game over the two defeats. Against NNU, McCarver scored nine points while grabbing six rebounds, dishing five assists and forcing three steals. Against Central, McCarver scored a team-high 10 points with another six boards and four assists.
Amber Winkler made an impact at either end of the floor in each game. On Thursday, Winkler scored a team-high 12 points on 4 of 5 shooting, including 2 of 2 from three and from the charity stripe. On Saturday, Winkler was held to five points, but was a nightmare for CWU on defense, grabbing five rebounds, blocking four shots and coming away with two steals. Winkler is third in the GNAC with 1.7 blocked shots per game. She is averaging five points and four rebounds per game this season.
Meadow Aragon returned to the lineup for the first time since New Year’s Day in Saturday’s game. In 13 minutes off the bench, Aragon shot 4 of 8 from the field, finishing with eight points, six rebounds and a block. Aragon ranks second in the GNAC in blocks per game (2.3) and fifth in rebounds per game (7.5).
• Western Oregon leads the GNAC and ranks 11th in Division II with 5.3 blocks per game. They rank third in the conference in rebounds per game (40.4) and rebound margin (+4.9).
• The Wolves host Simon Fraser on Thursday before welcoming No. 9/10 Western Washington on Saturday.

• Western Washington recovered nicely from their first loss of the season, defeating then-No. 5 Alaska Anchorage 53-45 on Thursday followed by Alaska 73-65 on Saturday.
• The Vikings became the first team to defeat UAA and UAF back-to-back on the road since Simon Fraser in February 2016.
Emma Duff won her first GNAC Player of the Week award of the season after putting up a pair of loaded box scores. Against the Seawolves, Duff scored 21 points on 6 of 10 shooting, including 4 of 7 from three-point range, while grabbing seven rebounds and accumulating three steals. Against the Nanooks, Duff scored 19 points, again making four three-pointers, to go with eight rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal. Duff ranks seventh in the GNAC in scoring at 15 points per game and fourth in rebounding (7.7 per game).
• Forward Brooke Walling put forth a needed efficient offensive performance to help the Vikings get the edge in the defensive battle with UAA. Walling shot 5 of 6 from the field and 3 of 4 from the line for 14 points, along with six rebounds, three blocks and two assists. Walling ranks seventh in the GNAC with 7.4 rebounds per game.
• The Dykstra sisters were both significant contributors against Alaska. Avery Dykstra scored 12 points thanks to a perfect 8-for-8 night from the free-throw line, the third-most makes without a miss from the stripe this year in the GNAC. Riley Dykstra came off the bench to tally 15 points and nine rebounds, shooting 7 of 11 from the field.
• The key win against Anchorage helped WWU move back up in the polls. The Vikings rose to No. 9 in the WBCA Coaches Poll and No. 10 in the D2SIDA Media Poll, up from No. 11 and No. 13. Western Washington also reclaimed the No. 1 position in the D2SIDA West Region rankings after losing the top spot for one week, earning 4 of 6 first-place votes.
• The Vikings go on the road to face Saint Martin’s on Thursday and Western Oregon on Saturday.

Copyright ©2024 Great Northwest Athletic Conference. All Rights Reserved.