Saints look to compete in the GNAC tournament two years in a row
Lauren Allison, Staff Writer
Last year was one of the most successful seasons in Saint Martins University Men’s Basketball program history. The Saints played in the 2017 Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament, contributing the first victory in the tournament for the school.
There are seven returning players, five transfers and three newcomers, making up the 15-player squad this year for SMU. Picked sixth in the preseason poll this year finishing the season with a 17-13 overall record, “The primary challenge for us early in the year will be developing our chemistry. With so many new players, we will have to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and develop trust. Once we have that, we can start spending more time on the on-court challenges,” said head coach Alex Pribble.
Junior forward Jordan Kitchen was voted to the 2017-18 GNAC Preseason All-Conference team. Last year Kitchen was the leading scorer with an average of 8.8 points per game and was second in rebounding with 5.3 per game. He shot 51.5 percent from the floor, recorded 31 blocks, 21 steals and had a career high of 23 points against Quest University on Jan. 23.
The Saints kicked off their nonconference season this year against the University of Washington (UW) on Nov. 2 and Washington State University (WSU) on Nov. 5. SMU led the UW Huskies for majority of the game at the UW home court. After a tough fought battle, the Huskies walked off the court with a 91-87 win. Junior guard Luke Chavez led the team with 32 points and five assists while junior guard Ej Boyce followed with 22. SMU shot 45.9 percent (28 for 61) from the floor and 52.9 percent (18 for 34) from outside the arc.
The Saints had a quick turn around and played at WSU against the Cougars which ended in an 85-74 loss. Freshman guard Bj Standley contributed 21 points and Chavez put up 16 points. The Saints headed to the locker room at half time after leading the Cougars the entire half. Overall, SMU shot 38.2 percent (26 for 68) from the floor and 29.6 percent (8 for 27) from outside the arc. The team also had 36 rebounds, 15 turnovers, nine steals and had 70 percent from the free-throw.
According to Pribble, “We’ve made great progress so far. We took a trip to Canada together in the summer that helped us get off on the right foot, and we’ve continued to build on that throughout the preseason. We try to keep our focus on the daily process of improvement, and I really believe our players have made great strides up to this point.”
Sophomore guard Logan Adams comments, “I’m most excited to play Western Washington. Not only did they beat us both times in the regular season, but they also knocked us out of the playoffs last year. I think with our new team we have a great opportunity to get revenge.”
Adams is also looking forward to winning games. “I feel like a great winning culture has been built here, and I’m excited to get back to it.”
The Saints have a competitive season, which Pribble commented on, saying “The GNAC is always very tough, and this year will be no different. I expect Western Washington and Western Oregon to be the top team based on what they return from last year, but there is great parity throughout the conference. Every night will be a battle.”
Western Washington University finished with a 25-6 overall record, winning the GNAC championship and was picked first in the preseason poll, and was followed by Western Oregon University who finished third overall with a record of 18-13.
Pribble mentioned that he is “really looking forward to watching this team go through the journey together. We have a great group of guys. They’re hard-working, tough, funny, and just a joy to coach. I’m looking forward to watching them create some great memories together.”
The Saints will compete in six more non GNAC games until they have their first conference game on the road against Central Washington University Nov. 30 at 7 p.m.