Women's Basketball: GNAC Championships Preview
Erin Chambers of Simon Fraser leads the GNAC with 22.7 points per game and was one of three unanimous first-team all-conference selections.
Erin Chambers of Simon Fraser leads the GNAC with 22.7 points per game and was one of three unanimous first-team all-conference selections.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

LACEY, Wash. – With the 2013-14 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Championships set to begin Wednesday evening, the stage is set inside Marcus Pavilion on the host campus of Saint Martin’s University. Following is a team-by-team preview of this season’s women’s field.

No. 1 Montana State Billings - Yellowjackets
Head Coach: Kevin Woodin, 10th season (173-109)
Record: 23-6, 15-3 GNAC (1st)
Home: 15-0
Away: 6-3
Neutral: 2-3
Current Streak: W2

After a first-place season, Montana State Billings reeled in the accolades with four of the five major all-conference awards. Unanimous GNAC Player of the Year Bobbi Knudsen leads the Yellowjackets into the 2013-14 Championships as one of the most dynamic players in the NCAA. Knudsen averages 17.0 points per game and her 5.9 assists per game are fifth-best across Division II. GNAC Defensive Player of the Year Janiel Olson leads the GNAC with 10.4 rebounds per game and is the only player in the conference to average in double figures in that category. The junior suffered an injury during the final stretch of the regular season and will likely miss the 2013-14 Championships.

In her first season in the GNAC, senior Montana State University transfer Chelsea Banis was a unanimous pick for Newcomer of the Year as her 6’ 4” frame made her a prolific figure under the hoop for the Yellowjackets. Banis is averaging 10.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest this season. MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin was picked as the GNAC Coach of the Year for leading MSUB to the No. 1 overall seed and a first-round bye in the tournament. 

Montana State Billings completed a perfect 15-0 regular season at home, and was 6-3 on the road. The Yellowjackets’ most recent loss came on the floor of Marcus Pavilion in Lacey, when Saint Martin’s snapped MSUB’s season-high 11-game winning streak with a 69-59 win on Feb. 22. Overall, the ‘Jackets have won 13 of their last 14 and 15-of-17 in 2014.

Earning a bye in the first round, MSUB will face the winner of No. 5 seed Seattle Pacific and No. 4 seed Simon Fraser on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Pacific time. MSUB lost in Seattle 63-57 on Jan. 11 in the debut ROOT SPORTS Game of the Week. The ‘Jackets were held to 26 first-half points in the loss, and MSUB received just 17 points from its bench on the game. MSUB turned the tables nearly a month later, downing SPU 74-59 in Billings thanks to a game-high 21 points from Knudsen and a 16-point nine-rebound performance by Banis. 

Against Simon Fraser, the ‘Jackets took care of business both times with an 81-63 win over the Clan on Jan. 2 in Billings and a more recent 76-61 triumph in Burnaby on Feb. 1.

Probable Starters
*Bobbi Knudsen (G, 5-8, Sr., Malta, MT – Malta)
*Chelsea Banis (C, 6-4, Sr., Fairfield, MT – Montana State)
*Kayleen Goggins (F, 6-1, Jr., Shepherd, MT - Shepherd)
*Austin Hanser (G, 5-7, Sr., Billings, MT – Rocky Mountain)
*Alisha Breen (F, 5-10, Fr., Choteau, MT - Choteau)

All-Conference Honorees
First Team – Bobbi Knudsen, Janiel Olson
Honorable Mention – Chelsea Banis, Kayleen Goggins

Red Lion Players of the Week

Week of Dec. 16-22 – Bobbi Knudsen, MSUB (G, 5-8, Sr., Malta, MT) scored 32 points while dishing out 17 assists and grabbing 14 rebounds in a pair of South Point Holiday Hoops Classic games. Knudsen led the Yellowjackets to a 78-58 win over Texas Woman’s and was instrumental in MSUB’s one-point loss to No. 6 Drury. Trailing by two points in the final minute against the Panthers, Knudsen drove into the paint, scored a layup and drew a foul. After converting the free throw to give MSUB a one-point lead with six seconds left, Drury got a buzzer-beater from 18 feet to shock the Yellowjackets and escape with the victory. “Bobbi played some incredible basketball over the two games,” MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin said. “Our team played the two best games we have all season, and Bobbi was a top contributor in both contests.”

Week of Dec. 30 – Jan. 5 – Bobbi Knudsen, MSUB (G, 5-8, Sr., Malta, MT) had 55 points, 12 assists, and four steals and was a perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line with five rebounds.  She led the team to an 81-63 win over Simon Fraser University and an 82-69 win over Western Washington University. In the game against SFU Knudsen had a team-high 18 points, six assists and two steals. In the win over WWU, Knudsen had a career-high 37 points, making 14-of-21 shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point territory, for a shooting percentage of 66.6.  Her 37 points is the highest by a women’s player in the GNAC this season. “Bobbi Knudsen played a special game tonight,” head coach Kevin Woodin said.  “She had 37 points, and had six assists to only one turnover.  It is probably one of the best perimeter games I have ever witnessed.”

No. 2 Western Washington - Vikings

Head Coach: Carmen Dolfo, 23rd season (492-182)
Record: 17-9, 13-5 GNAC (2nd)
Home: 9-2
Away: 7-5
Neutral: 1-2
Current Streak: W1

Western Washington closed its regular season with wins in six of its final seven contests, and put together a season-high winning streak of six games from Jan. 9-25. On their home court of Sam Carver Gym, the Vikings were 9-2 and extended their lengthy home-court winning streak to 26 games with six straight wins in Bellingham to start the season. On the road, the Vikings put together a solid 7-4 mark.

Katie Colard, a first-team all-GNAC pick is one of the premier 3-point shooters in the conference and leads the Vikings with 13.9 points per game. Her mark of 40.4 percent from long range is third-best in the conference, and she is shooting a GNAC fourth-best 83.8 percent from the foul line. 

One of the most prominent post players in the GNAC this season has been Sarah Hill, who is third in the GNAC with 9.0 rebounds per game and is averaging 10.4 points per game for the Vikings. The senior also has a team-high 50 blocks, and her average of 1.9 per game is fourth-best in the conference. Hill's six double-doubles this season are fourth-most in the GNAC.

Taylor Peacocke (10.4 ppg), and junior Jenni White (10.2 ppg) are WWU’s other players averaging in double-figures in the scoring department, and White leads the team with 119 assists and has a GNAC fourth-best 4.6 per game. As a team, the Vikings score the second-most points in the conference with 74.5 per contest, thanks to a GNAC-best field goal percentage of 46.2.

WWU awaits the winner of No. 6 seed Saint Martin’s and No. 3 seed Alaska Anchorage on Friday at 5:15 p.m. Pacific time. Against the Saints this season, WWU is 2-0, winning the first game 79-73 on Jan. 18 in Lacey and repeating the feat with a 69-52 win in Bellingham on Feb. 13.

The Vikings took care of UAA the first time the teams met in Bellingham with a 76-70 win on Jan. 23. In Anchorage, the Seawolves topped WWU with a 79-75 result on Feb. 22. Colard scored a game-high 23 points on 4-of-7 shooting and Hill had a big game with 12 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks in the loss.

Probable Starters
*Sarah Hill (F, 6-3, Sr., Richmond, VA – Maryland-Baltimore County)
*Katie Colard (G, 5-9, Jr., McCleary, WA - Elma)
*Jenni White (G, 5-5, Jr., Spokane, WA – East Valley)
*Marcel Pounds (G, 5-8, Jr., Bonney Lake, WA - Bonney Lake)
*Sydney Donaldson (F, 6-0, Jr., Edmonds, WA – Edmonds-Woodway)

All-Conference Honorees
First Team – Katie Colard
Second Team – Sarah Hill
Honorable Mention – Jenni White

Red Lion Players of the Week

Week of Jan. 6-12 – Sydney Donaldson, WWU (F, 6-0, Jr., Edmonds, WA – Edmonds-Woodway) averaged a double-double with 18.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in a pair of WWU victories last week that extended the Vikings’ home win streak to 24 straight and pushed them over .500 on the season at 7-6 overall and 3-2 in GNAC play. Donaldson powered WWU in a 71-64 victory over Central Washington on Thursday, leading all scorers with 21 points while grabbing nine rebounds, blocking five shots and dishing out five assists. The junior shot 8-for-10 from the field and 4-for-6 from beyond the 3-point line. On Saturday, Donaldson turned in 15 points while collecting 15 rebounds and posting four blocks and four assists in a 81-68 win over Northwest Nazarene. In all, Donaldson shot .583 from the field (14-for-24) and totaled nine assists and nine blocks against just three turnovers in 68 minutes on the floor last week.

Week of Jan. 13-19 – Sarah Hill, WWU (F, 6-3, Sr., Richmond, VA – Maryland-Baltimore County) scored 27 points and grabbed a GNAC-high 30 rebounds to help WWU to a pair of victories that extended the Vikings’ winning streak to four games. Hill shot 10-for-22 from the field while averaging 32.0 minutes per contest last week. The senior also contributed three blocks, three steals and an assist. On Thursday, Hill notched a big double-double as she led all scorers and rebounders with 18 points and 16 boards in a 78-58 triumph over Western Oregon. Hill just missed a double-double on Saturday, scoring nine points and turning in a game-high 14 rebounds in WWU’s 79-73 win over first-place Saint Martin’s in Lacey. The wins propelled WWU into a four-way tie atop the GNAC standings, and Hill now ranks No. 8 in the conference in rebounds per game with 7.5.

No. 3 Alaska Anchorage - Seawolves
Head Coach: Ryan McCarthy, 2nd season (36-17)
Record: 19-7, 12-6 GNAC (3rd)
Home: 12-2
Away: 7-5
Neutral: 0-0
Current Streak: L1 

Finishing the season winning five of its final six games, Alaska Anchorage earned the No. 3 seed and will face No. 6 Saint Martin’s in the first round of the Championships. UAA opened up the season by winning nine of its first 10 games and finished the regular season at 12-2 at home and 7-5 away from the Wells Fargo Complex.

Leading the Seawolves in the scoring department is Alli Madison, who is averaging 13.2 points and adds 4.0 rebounds per game. Kylie Burns averages 12.2 points per game and a team-high 6.8 rebounds, and freshman Kiki Robertson has burst onto the collegiate scene with 10.8 points, a team-high 132 assists, and an NCAA fourth-best 3.31 steals per game. Jessica Madison is another top player with 11.2 points per game, and Jenna Buchanan is third in the GNAC in 3-point shooting at 42.3 percent.

UAA faces host Saint Martin’s in the Quarterfinals on Wednesday, and will seek to defeat the only GNAC team that it lost to twice this season. On Jan. 11 in Anchorage, the Saints got the better of UAA in an 85-78 win as Burns led the way with 17 points and Robertson added 14 points, four assists and a pair of steals. In the teams’ most recent meeting, the Saints held UAA to its lowest point total of the season, as SMU won by 10, 56-46 on Feb. 6 in Lacey.

Probable Starters
*Jenna Buchanan (G, 5-8, So., Galena, AK – Galena)
*Alysha Devine (F, 6-0, Fr., Wasilla, AK – Wasilla)
*Kiki Robertson (G, 5-7, Fr., Honolulu, HI – Mid-Pacific Institute)
*Jessica Madison (G, 5-8, So., Port Angeles, WA – Port Angeles)
*Kylie Burns (F, 5-9, Sr., Kansas City, KS – Bishop Ward)

All-Conference Honorees
Second Team – Kylie Burns, Kiki Robertson

Red Lion Players of the Week

Week of Nov. 25 – Dec. 1 - Kiki Robertson, UAA (G, 5-7, Fr., Honolulu, HI – Mid-Pacific) averaged 16.5 points and grabbed a dozen rebounds in a pair of games against Division I competition last week in the Great Alaska Shootout. Robertson averaged 34 minutes on the court, contributing a GNAC-high 12 steals and 11 assists in a victory against UC Riverside and a loss to Georgetown. Robertson shot 39 percent from the field, while turning in a solid 1.6 assist-turnover ratio. 

No. 4 Simon Fraser - Clan
Head Coach: Bruce Langford, 13th season (322-78)
Record: 17-8, 12-6 (4th in GNAC)
Home: 11-2
Away: 6-5
Neutral: 0-1
Current Streak: L1

Following the play of GNAC-leading scorer Erin Chambers all season long, Simon Fraser won six games in a row after losing its season-opener and went 11-2 at home. SFU maintained a 6-5 record on the road, and won eight games in a nine-game stretch during January and February. SFU fell to Western Washington 72-63 on the final day of the regular season, settling for the No. 4 seed heading into the tournament.

Chambers was a unanimous first-team all-GNAC pick after averaging 22.7 points and ranking eighth across Division II in that category. Chambers also averages 4.2 rebounds and is shooting 83.2 percent from the foul line. Senior Rebecca Langmead leads the GNAC in blocks per game with 2.2, as she has totaled 56 this season. Katie Lowen is the other Clan player to average in double figures with 11.0 points per game and Meg Wilson leads the team with seven rebounds per contest.

Simon Fraser ranks seventh in the GNAC in scoring margin at plus-3.3, and the Clan shoot 42.5 percent from the field. SFU is one of the best teams in Division II at defending against the 3-point shot, holding opponents to 25.1 percent from beyond the arc (8th in NCAA). SFU also ranks second in the GNAC in assists per game with 15.8.

The Clan take on Seattle Pacific in the Quarterfinals of the GNAC Championships and will look for a repeat of their most recent 77-68 win over the Falcons on Jan. 30. In that contest, Lowen had a game-high 23 points and Chambers added 20 to pace the Clan. SFU also got the best of SPU when the teams met on Jan. 4 in Seattle, as the Clan escaped with a narrow 63-60 result. Chambers (15) and Lowen (14) were also the top-two scorers in that game for SFU.

Probable Starters
*Erin Chambers (G/F, 6-1, Jr., Mission, BC – Heritage Park)
*Chelsea Reist (F, 6-2, Sr., Mission, BC – Mission)
*Rebecca Langmead (F, 6-5, Sr., Torbay, NL – Gonzaga)
*Kia Van Laare (G, 5-7, Sr., New Westminster, BC – New Westminster)
*Marie-Line Petit (G, 5-6, Sr., Bergeronnes, QC – Ste. Foy CEGEP)

All-Conference Honorees
First Team – Erin Chambers
Honorable Mention – Katie Lowen

Red Lion Players of the Week

Week of Jan. 20-26 - Erin Chambers, SFU (G/F, 6-1, Jr., Mission, BC – Heritage Park) led Simon Fraser to a pair of victories as she scored 64 points while shooting .629 (22-for-35) from the floor and .412 (7-for-17) from 3-point range. Chambers also converted 13-of-14 free throws and grabbed 10 rebounds while playing all 80 minutes for the Clan last week. On Thursday, the junior helped SFU edge Alaska Fairbanks by two points as she scored 30 points and hauled in five rebounds. Chambers was even better in a four-point victory over Alaska Anchorage on Saturday, notching 34 points, five more rebounds and three assists. Chambers maintained her spot atop the GNAC scoring leaders, boosting her average to 22.8 points per game as she has scored a conference-high 387 points so far in 2013-14.

No. 5 Seattle Pacific - Falcons
Head Coach: Julie Heisey, 7th season (161-42)
Record: 18-8, 11-7 GNAC (T-5th)
Home: 8-4
Away: 7-4
Neutral: 3-0
Current Streak: W1

Entering the season picked to finish second in the GNAC preseason coaches’ poll, SPU lost three of its first four GNAC games before responding with a five-game winning streak during January. The Falcons were 8-5 at home and even better at 8-3 away from Brougham Pavilion. SPU won 3-of-4 to close the season, as its only loss down the stretch was a 76-65 setback to Alaska Anchorage on Feb. 27.

SPU is led by GNAC second-leading scorer and rebounder Katie Benson, who averages 19.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. The senior was a unanimous first-team all-GNAC pick, and also leads the team in blocks (38) and was second in steals (48). Suzanna Ohlsen is averaging 13.9 points per game and is shooting and NCAA fifth-best 91.1 percent from the foul line. Betsy Kingma has been another asset for the Falcons, averaging 9.6 points and shooting 35 percent from 3-point range. 

As a team, SPU has the fourth-best scoring margin in the GNAC at plus-5.5, and is second from the foul line at 75.3 percent. The Falcons are also second in rebounding margin at plus-3.2 and blocks per game with 4.7.

Against Quarterfinal opponent Simon Fraser this season, SPU has lost a pair of close games, with the first contest of the year in Seattle on Jan. 4 being a tough three-point setback. Benson excelled with 25 points, six rebounds, two steals a block and an assist in the contest, and Ohlsen added 14 points in the loss. In SPU’s latest loss to the Clan, Benson again had a big game with 23 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two assists, and Ohlsen shot 6-for-12 from the field for 16 points.

Probable Starters
*Hannah Rodrigues (F/G, 5-10, Fr., Eugene, OR – Sheldon)
*Katie Benson (F, 6-2, Sr., Snohomish, WA – Snohomish)
*Maddey Pflaumer (F, 5-11, So., Issaquah, WA – Issaquah)
*Suzanna Ohlsen (G, 5-7, Jr., Monroe, WA – Monroe)
*Betsy Kingma (G, 5-11, Jr., Bellevue, WA – Newport)

All-Conference Honorees
First Team – Katie Benson
Second Team – Suzanna Ohlsen

Red Lion Players of the Week

Week of Nov. 11-17 - Katie Benson, SPU (F, 6-1, Sr., Snohomish, WA - Snohomish) averaged a double-double with 18 points and 12.5 rebounds in a pair of Falcon wins last week as SPU has started the 2013-14 campaign 4-0. Sixteen of Benson’s 25 total rebounds were defensive, and she also turned in six steals and four blocks while committing just two turnovers. Overall, the senior shot 14-of-25 from the field and drained 7-of-8 free throws while averaging 25 minutes of action per game. Benson’s 17 rebounds on Saturday night against Point Loma Nazarene tied her career high, and she was named tournament Most Valuable Player for the SPU-hosted Sodexo Tip-Off Classic.

Week of Nov. 18-24 – Katie Benson, SPU (F, 6-1, Sr., Snohomish, WA – Snohomish) led the GNAC in scoring (28.5) and rebounding (11.5), and was second in blocks (3.0) and field goal percentage (.667) last week as the Falcons won a pair of games to improve to 6-0 in 2013. Benson also shot 83 percent from the free throw line and turned in seven steals while converting three-of-four attempts from long distance.

Week of Feb. 17-23 - Suzanna Ohlsen, Seattle Pacific (G, 5-7, Jr., Monroe, WA – Monroe) pumped in a career-high 25 points – accounting for nearly half of the Falcons' total of 54 – and also grabbed a career-high eight rebounds on Thursday night, leading them to a 54-44 victory at Saint Martin's. Ohlsen hit 10-of-12 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from downtown, handed out three assists, and had four steals – converting all four into coast-to-coast lay-ups, and scored seven points during a decisive 10-0 run that snapped a 28-28 tie and put SPU in front for good at 38-28. She followed that with 12 points, six rebounds, five assists, and one steal on Saturday as the Falcons won at Western Oregon, 76-64. Ohlsen also hit all four of her free throws for the week, extending her streak to 31 in a row and pushing her GNAC-leading average above 90 percent to .904. 

No. 6 Saint Martin’s - Saints
Head Coach: Tim Healy, 18th season (232-245)
Record: 17-10, 11-7 GNAC (T-5th)
Home: 10-2
Away: 6-5
Neutral: 1-3
Current Streak: W3

Saint Martin’s enters the GNAC tournament as the hottest team, having won three games in a row heading into Wednesday’s Quarterfinal game against No. 3 Alaska Anchorage. The Saints got off to a quick start in GNAC play, winning their first three conference games and five of their first six. Head coach Tim Healy earned GNAC Coach of the Month honors for February as he piloted SMU to five wins including an upset of No. 1 Montana State Billings that clinched the Saints’ first-ever GNAC tournament berth.

Senior Chelsea Haskey leads the Saints in scoring with 13.0 points per game and rebounding with 6.8 boards. Haskey is also tied for the team lead in blocks with 32 and leads in assists with 40. Megan Wiedeman has blossomed into a key player for the Saints as of late, as she is averaging 6.7 rebounds and six points, and is tied with Haskey for the team lead in blocks with 32.

Angela Gelhar is SMU’s other double-figure scorer with 10.6 points per game, and her 36 steals are the second most on the team. Jordyn Richardson has been a key for the Saints from 3-point range, shooting a GNAC-high 43.4 percent (33-for-76) from downtown this season.

As a team, the Saints have built their game around their defense, as SMU allows a GNAC-low 60.4 points per game. Those numbers elevate at home, as SMU is even stingier at 54.1 points allowed when inside Marcus Pavilion.

The last time the Saints and Seawolves met was on Feb. 6 in Lacey when SMU held a top-10 NCAA team in scoring to its season low in a 56-46 win over UAA. Haskey had 13 points, five rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two assists in the victory, and Gelhar added a dozen more points. The first time the teams met in Anchorage on Jan. 11, Gelhar erupted for a career-high 36 points on 6-of-9 from 3-point range as the Saints ramped up their scoring in the 85-78 win. 

Probable Starters
*Brooke Paulson (F, 5-10, Jr., Buckley, WA – White River)
*Megan Wiedeman (F, 6-0, So., Sammamish, WA – Skyline)
*Chelsea Haskey (F, 6-1, Sr., Olympia, WA – Black Hills)
*Jori Skorpik (G, 5-2, Jr., Kennewick, WA – Kamiakin)
*Angela Gelhar (G, 5-6, Jr., Vancouver, WA – Prairie)

All-Conference Honorees
Second Team – Chelsea Haskey

Red Lion Players of the Week

Week of Dec. 9 – 15 - Krista Stabler, SMU (G, 5-6, So., Silverdale, WA – Central Kitsap) finished with a career-high 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field while she was 8-of-10 from the line against Hawaii-Hilo on Saturday. She also had career highs in rebounds with six and assists with four while adding two steals and committing zero turnovers in 27 minutes off the bench.

Week of Feb. 3-9 - Chelsea Haskey, SMU (F, 6-1, Sr., Olympia, WA – Black Hills) scored 28 points and also had 12 rebounds, four steals and a pair of blocks leading the Saints to home wins over Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks. She had 13 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three steals in Thursday’s 56-46 win over UAA. On Saturday, she netted 15 points and also had seven rebounds to key a 67-66 win over UAF.