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Grayce Roach’s jersey number, 34, is also a target.

Opposing players from well-coached teams try to lock onto the star women's basketball player at UIN from the second they check in.

A common refrain for defensive specialists entering the game is “Which one, Roach or Monahan?”

Roach and 2,000-point club member Nicki Monahan are the dominoes that must fall if a team is to have any chance of stopping the RedHawks, 23-5 and ranked 13th nationally.

Most often the duo is impossible to stop, and the team’s depth keeps opponents honest if they overstep trying to hound Roach and Monahan on the perimeter.

A two-time all-conference player in the Association of Independent Institutions, Roach had to earn that reputation among opponents. She hit the beach this summer but not for a tan.

The Hobart grad ran the stairs at the Dunes National Lakeshore and at West Beach. She ran sprints and the occasional distance trek, focusing on interval running. The preseason brought plenty of sprints with the team and weight training.

Roach lost some weight and became leaner as she tried to make her game meaner, and it was no surprise that she was a preseason All-America watch list candidate.

She averaged 20 points per game over the final 16 contests of her sophomore season to finish the year with a 14.9 ppg. average. This was after she was named A.I.I. Freshman of the Year.

This season Roach is averaging 16.5 points per game, 38th in the nation, and shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range, 25th in the nation. She’s second among NAIA Division II independents with a 47.5 field goal percentage.

She was the conference player of the week for the first week of the season and added a second player of the week honor this past Sunday. Monahan has won it four times, no doubt stifling Roach’s bid for more.

Roach had 16 points and three rebounds in a win over Maranatha Baptist, then went for 21 points and 11 rebounds in a 66-36 A.I.I. victory over Lincoln Christian University.

She’s not satisfied with stats or weekly awards though, especially not after going 5-for-14 from the floor en route to 13 hard-earned points against No. 1 St. Francis in a home loss Monday.

“I need to take initiative more on the court and get momentum going on our side of the court,” Roach said. “I started off the season really quickly, but that’s come down some with playing more minutes and heavier defense because I’m trying to play on bigger guards. I think I need to pick up the momentum more for our team.”

Roach knows that the 2011 A.I.I. championship banner was the last one of its type raised inside the Savannah Center. The quest to end the dry spell begins Feb. 25 at College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo.

The RedHawks (23-5) will be the No. 2 seed in the six-team tournament with a bye into the semifinal round.

Seniors such as Monahan and Bernadette Grabowski will be seeking a first championship and national tourney berth in their final go-round.

“They’ve been role models for me,” Roach said. “It means a lot for me and makes me want to work harder for them to get a conference championship. We’ve gotten so close and worked so hard together. That would mean the world to me to help get them that.”

Crimson Wave bowlers top 10 again: With the toughest event on the schedule wrapping up the regular season last weekend, the Calumet College men’s bowling team can say it has finished the season ranked in the top 10 nationally for the 10th season in a row.

Last weekend the Crimson Wave competed at the Hoosier Classic in Indianapolis, led the competition at one point and eventually qualified for the finals in second before taking fifth overall out of 78 teams.

Only the top eight teams advanced to match play, but Calumet College was in 10th until a monster game -- Wave bowlers posting scores of 234, 235, 243, 247 and 255 for a 1,214 game score -- put the Wave in first temporarily.

Calumet College had three bowlers in the top 15 of the individual standings. Sophomore Tyler James was seventh with a 221 average; junior Michael Davidson was eighth with a 219.8 average; and sophomore Nicco Vicari averaged 216.8 to crack the top 15.

Cal College will receive its sectional assignment and learn its postseason fate on Feb. 23.

Pride takes pride in GPA: Purdue Northwest had a 3.17 athletic department grade-point average this past fall semester.

Nearly 200 Pride student-athletes (68.3 percent of PNW student-athletes) carried a 3.0 or higher, and 16 had a perfect 4.0.

“The constant focus for our athletic programs has always been students first, athletes second,” PNW athletic director Rick Costello said in a release. “We are so proud of our Pride student athletes for continuing to strive for a balance of academics and athletics as move forward into NCAA Division II membership.”

The PNW women’s basketball team, No. 15 in NAIA Division II with a 21-7 overall record, led the way with a 3.73 GPA with women’s tennis (3.53), women’s golf (3.50) and women’s volleyball (3.44) also contributing to the high average.


Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.