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All-America Nominee Martin Leads Archers to NJCAA Tourney

March 13, 2013

Kalah Martin  
Freshman Kalah Martin talled 26 points for the Archers in
their 63-55 win over North Arkansas College. The Archers
won the District P title and a berth in the NJCAA Division II
Women's Basketball Championship for the second straight
season.

With her team trailing North Arkansas College by 10 points in the second half of the District P playoff March 9, St. Louis Community College freshman Kalah Martin (Kirkwood) saved arguably her best performance of the year for the season’s biggest moment to date.

Martin rallied her Archer teammates by scoring a game-high 26 points.

However, it was her contributions defensively that really stood out. Martin grabbed six steals (the Archers finished with seven total), including three in the final eight minutes, as the Archers finished the game on a 12-0 run to defeat the 12th-ranked Lady Pioneers 63-55 and send STLCC to the NJCAA Tournament.

“In the second half, I got a sense of who they wanted to get the ball to, so I just kind of stayed behind them on defense a little bit,” Martin said. “This was the game to play an all-around game. I was glad to be able to help my team.”

Martin was not without help in the second half. Sophomore forward Lauren Maclin (Ladue) scored 12 points despite battling foul trouble for much of the second half. Sophomore guard Chanese Washington (Mehlville) reeled in a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and sophomore guard Kirstie Owen (Salem, Ill.) finished with 12 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 43 seconds remaining.

But it was Martin who was the catalyst on both ends of the floor, a constant presence on the court that the Archers had sought for much of this season. The Kirkwood native showed flashes of brilliance early this season, but didn’t put it all together until February. Martin was the chief benefactor of a number of defections and injuries at the guard position in January. What appeared to be the most tumultuous portion of the Archers’ season also proved to be the most crucial in re-igniting STLCC’s momentum as the team revamped its lineup for the second half.

Taking the Lead

In a matter of days, Martin went from an athletically gifted, yet inexperienced guard who took her lumps as a first-semester freshman battling veterans for playing time, to the engine behind the Archers’ offense.
Martin took immediately to the increase in responsibility. She made her transition apparent with a breakout, 29-point performance in an 83-82, double-overtime win at North Central College on Jan. 19.

Then there was the 18-point, nine-rebound, six-steal showing at home against North Central on Feb. 16. Martin didn’t slow down as the pressure of entering the four-team Region XVI Tournament as the third seed loomed. She collected a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds as STLCC defeated second-seeded Cottey College 66-54 in the tournament opener. The Archers had lost both regular-season games to Cottey.

Martin’s performance down the stretch in the regular season and during the Region XVI Tournament earned her All-Region honors, and also an All-America nomination.

However, North Arkansas posed a much different challenge, both for Martin and the Archers as a whole. The Pioneers entered the March 9 playoff game with a record of 22-5, champions of Region II, and had been nationally ranked for much of the season. But Martin revealed the cool, calm, productive player the coaches envisioned when they recruited her last winter.

“She’s a freshman, and she stepped up and she chose a great night to get hot for us,” Archers head coach Shelly Ethridge said. “Chanese (Washington) wasn’t shooting real well from the outside, and Kalah took over and took that leadership role. She was not nervous at all during this game, and that tells you a lot about a freshman player.”

Beating the Odds

Given that they entered the postseason as the third seed in the region, and with a roster of just nine players, few could fault the Archers for acknowledging long odds for a repeat run to the national tournament. But you will find no such mention from Martin, or any other member of an Ethridge-coached team.

“They’re not upsets to us,” Martin said of her team’s late-season resurgence. “We always believed that we would make it to nationals, so it’s not an upset to us at all.”

As the Archers prepare for their first-round matchup in the NJCAA Tournament at Illinois Central College on March 19, STLCC may find itself in a familiar position. As one of only two tournament teams with fewer than 20 wins on the season, the Archers (19-9) may be viewed by many as underdogs, and that’s just fine by them. They are seeded No. 14 and will face third-seeded Illinois Central at 6 p.m.

“I look forward to it every year,” Ethridge said. “I hope we have a great experience and win a few games up there this year. We’re developing something special for St. Louis Community College and our program, so I’d like to keep it going.”

With Martin and her teammates playing their best basketball of the season, they just might.