By Tom Rohrer
The Saint Martin’s guard twice found herself open at the three point line in the final two minutes of the GNAC Tournament quarterfinal against Alaska Anchorage.
And twice she delivered.
Following a 6-0 run by the Seawolves to cut the SMU lead to two at 50-48, Gelhar swished three pointers on consecutive possessions to provide the Saints a cushion en route to their 58-48 victory.
Gelhar, a junior, scored eight consecutive points for the Saints late in the second half, the final six coming on her two three point buckets.
“It was all my teammates,” said Gelhar in the postgame press-conference. “All I was thinking was ‘great pass’ when I shot.”
Gelhar’s game high 21 points propelled Saint Martin’s (18-10) into a tournament semi-final match with GNAC #2 seed Western Washington on Friday at 5:15 p.m. Saint Martin’s is hosting the GNAC Tournament on campus at the Marcus Pavilion for the third consecutive season.
Though Gelhar stole the spotlight at the end, it was the defense and strong inside play that anchored the SMU victory. In their third victory over the Seawolves this season, Saint Martin’s held Alaska Anchorage 34 points below their 82 points per game average.
“It’s a clash of styles between us and them,” said Saints head coach, Tim Healy. “We wanted to take the air out of the game, use the shot clock and limit their fast-break opportunities.”
“Our defense is our strength and we showed that again tonight.”
Sophomore forward Megan Wiedeman pulled down a GNAC Tournament record 17 rebounds while senior Chelsea Haskey grabbed 11 herself. The two had eight points apiece and Wiedeman’s three blocks were one shy of tying the tournament record.
Though less effective than normal offensively, Haskey’s effort impressed Healy, as did the performance from Wiedeman.
“Chelsea was frustrated with herself, but that didn’t stop her from playing hard. She wanted to control that area of the floor,” said Healy. “Megan has great length and is great in her pursuit of the ball. I can’t teach that length and those instincts.”
“Offensively, anything we get from her, I consider bonus points,” Healy later added about Wiedeman.
Down 16-9 with 11 minutes left in the first half, Saint Martin’s proceeded to go on a 15-0 run, holding the Seawolves scoreless for over eight minutes. That run proved to be a major difference in the final outcome.
“We established ourselves during that run,” Healy said.
After taking a 33-23 lead at the half, Saint Martin’s would struggle offensively in the second half, shooting 26.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free-throw line. All of the struggles were forgotten following Gelhar’s big triples.
“Those were team plays,” Healy said of Gelhar’s fourth quarter three pointers. “The ball was moving and we were making the extra passes.”
Gelhar received a large ovation from the crowd when she checked out with six seconds remaining in the contest. The celebration began soon after for the Saints, who earned their first conference tournament victory in school history in front of their home fans and supporters.
“It’s a huge victory for our program, school, and athletic department,” said Healy. “This was a big win.”
“Last year, we we’re in the same place watching the girl’s games,” Gelhar said. “Now we’re in this situation a year later. It’s pretty crazy to think about.”
Saint Martin’s will take on Western Washington at Marcus Pavilion on Friday, March 7 at 5:15 p.m.