When the basketballs stop bouncing for most of the Class of ’07 next spring it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say Saint Martin’s made out as well as any school that snagged players from that group.
The Division II Saints picked up Dara Zack (University) and Roni Jo Mielke (Sprague-Harrington), who have combined 129 starts and counting as they prepare to play at Eastern Washington on Saturday at 7 p.m. (game time pushed back because of the Eagles’ football playoff game).
“The first two summers I went home, most of us went home, and all summer we played basketball together,” Zack said of the class. “We’re great friends. I remember playing against some in second grade. It’s been a lucky experience for us.”
Most of them were teammates at some point, either with the Spokane Stars in the summer or in the Jack Blair Memorial All-Star Game.
“The Greater Spokane League was absolutely dominating that year,” Mielke said. “I never played with them a whole lot, just with the Stars and reading about them.”
Though Zack and Mielke played some summer ball together and ended up as roommates at Saint Martin’s, they made the decision independently to go to the school in Lacey, outside of Olympia. It was the perfect fit for Zack, an undersized, overachieving 5-foot-10 forward, and the 5-6 guard who was the 1B Player of the Year for a state champion. Zach was a first-team All-GSL pick as a senior when teammate Angie Bjorklund, now at Tennessee, was MVP.
Coming into this season, Zack had 1,089 points and 650 rebounds, and is averaging 15.7 points and 7.1 rebounds for the 5-2 Saints so far.
“It’s been awesome,” said Zack, who will graduate with an English degree in the spring and student teach next fall. “A great choice, a great experience for me.”
With her name near the top of many Saint Martin’s records and sprinkled in the Top 25 in the Great Northwest League, Zack, who set a league record last week with 12 offensive rebounds in a game, has no second thoughts about what might have been had she joined the more than half-dozen D-I signees that year.
“Definitely not,” she said. “I don’t look back. A decision that’s been made is a decision made, you can’t go back. You just have to make the most of your opportunities. I’ve had some great teammates here. It’s a really supportive community for athletes and I have a great support system.”
Mielke, who hopes to be in medical school next fall, said, “I’ve had a blast. I think it’s pretty special coming from a small town that I’ve had this opportunity. I’m more than grateful.”
She blew a knee as a sophomore and missed the last five games. It was right after her “ah-ha” moment.
“I was a little nervous at first,” she said. “Players were from larger programs and had crazy experience I never had but I saw I could keep up. Midway through my sophomore year, I thought, ‘I get basketball. This is how it’s supposed to be done.’ Then I promptly went out and tore up my knee.”
Two other Saints are from the area, Megan Teade of Colfax and Kelsey Baker of Lewis and Clark, which beat Zack’s Titans in the 2007 4A state title game.
“We were rivals in high school but we’re really good friends,” Zack said. “It’s been awesome with all of us from Eastern Washington. We’re all really close. … Basketball is so big in Eastern Washington, it’s great to have those girls that know what it means to work hard on your team.”
Vandersloot back on top
The first NCAA statistics are out and Gonzaga’s Courtney Vandersloot has resumed her spot atop the assists chart, averaging 9.1, almost two more than second place.
She led the nation last year at 9.4. The senior All-American and two-time reigning West Coast Conference Player of the Year still manages to keep her teammates involved despite bumping her scoring average to 19.3, 27th nationally, up from 14.1 last year.
It’s a light week, starting with Montana (3-5) at Idaho (5-2) Wednesday. In addition to Saint Martin’s at Eastern Saturday (1-6) at 7 p.m., Idaho goes to Seattle (2-6) and Washington State (2-6) is at Gonzaga (6-3) at 2 p.m. The Zags edged the Cougars 67-65 in a Hawaii tournament game over Thanksgiving.
Hawaii was good to the GSL, or was the GSL bad for Hawaii? Hawaii visited Portland and PSU senior Kelli Valentine (Mead), scoreless in the first half after being honored before the game for reaching 1,000 career points, went off for 15 as the Vikings won 77-66. Two nights later at Portland, senior Tara Cronin (Gonzaga Prep) has a game-high 17 points as the Pilots won 66-61. … Lewis-Clark State, one of five unbeaten NAIA Division I teams at 9-0, is ranked No. 5 in the latest poll. The Warriors won three games in 48 hours on a swing to California, including two NCAA D-III teams. Junior Kirsi Voshell (Pullman) leads the team in rebounding (8.7) and blocked shots (18) and is second in scoring (13.1). The Warriors play host to a three-day, three team tourney this weekend, facing Warner Pacific on Friday and Great Falls on Sunday. …Junior Kyle Miller (Cheney) scored 17 points to lead Eastern Oregon a 70-69 win over Northwest. Miller had 13 points, six boards and four assists in a 69-68 thriller over The Evergreen State College to open conference play. The Mountaineers (9-1) won their sixth straight to jump into the NAIA D-2 poll at No. 25