LACEY, Wash. – Shooting guard Katie Colard (Jr., McCleary/Elma) scored a game-high 23 points and point guard Jenni White (Jr., Spokane/East Valley) added15 points and tied a career high with nine assists as Western Washington University held off host Saint Martin’s University for an 81-71 semifinal victory Friday at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament being held at Marcus Pavilion.
Forward Sydney Donaldson (Jr., Edmonds/Edmonds-Woodway) had 17 points and Taylor Peacocke (Fr., Kenmore/Inglemoor) came off the bench with 10 for the defending champion Vikings, the No.2 seed who improved to 18-9. They advance to the GNAC title game for the fourth straight year, meeting the winner of Friday’s other semifinal between No.1 seed Montana State Billings and No.4 Simon Fraser on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Saint Martin’s, the No.6 seed, ended its season at 18-11. Megan Wiedeman had 17 points and a game-high 15 rebounds for the Saints, who also got 17 points from Chelsea Haskey.
WWU, which never trailed in the contest, built an 18-point lead, 42-24, with two minutes left in the opening half and led by 15, 44-29, at halftime.
But Saint Martin’s outscored the Vikings, 17-4, in the first 5:44 of the second half to close the margin to two, 48-46.
“Saint Martin’s has done that to us every game this season,” said WWU coach Carmen Dolfo (23rd year, 493-182). “They just never give up, but we made some big shots to turn it around.”
WWU used an 11-5 run with Colard scoring five points for a 59-51 advantage with 8:19 to go and led by 12, 68-56, with 4:41 remaining. The closest the Saint got after that was five on two occasions, the last at 72-67 with 1:20 left before the Vikings made seven of their last eight free throws.
WWU, which has won seven of its last eight games and 15 of its last 19 following a 3-5 start, shot 58.1 percent (18-of-31) from the field in the first half, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. The Vikings made 23-of-30 free throws (76.7 percent) in the game, hitting 19-of-24 in the second half.
White had eight of her assists in the first half. “She did an awesome job of distributing the ball,” Dolfo said.
The victory was the 14th straight by WWU in their series with Saint Martin’s. The Vikings, who won all three meetings this season, hold a 62-10 advantage.
Colard extended her string of games hitting a trey to 32, making 3-of-7.