Arrow-right Camera

Zack, Mielke enjoy playing for St. Martin Saints

Dave Trimmer, Davet@Spokesman.Com, (509) 927-2154

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 a combined 129 starts and counting as they prepare to play at Eastern Washington at 7 p.m. Saturday (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, Wash. It was the perfect fit for Zack, an undersized, overachieving 5-foot-10 forward, and 5-6 guard Mielke, who was the 1B Player of the Year for a state champion. Zack 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 a game for the Saints (5-2), so far.

“It’s been awesome,” said Zack, who will graduate with an English degree in the spring and be a student teacher 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.

“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 out her 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 State 4A 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 University’s Courtney Vandersloot has resumed her spot atop the assists chart, averaging 9.1 per game, almost two more than second place.

She led the nation last year at 9.4.

On tap

It’s a light week, starting with Montana (3-5) at Idaho (5-2) tonight. In addition to Saint Martin’s at Eastern Saturday (1-6) at 7 p.m., Idaho goes to Seattle (2-6) and Washington State (2-7) is at Gonzaga (6-3) at 2 p.m. The Zags edged the Cougars 67-65 in a Hawaii tournament game over Thanksgiving.

Subscribe to the sports newsletter

Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.