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The Wildcat basketball women’s 2022 opener is a chance for a Great Northwest Athletic Conference shakeup.

Central Washington (8-4 overall and sixth in the GNAC at 1-2), averaging 78 points in its three-game win streak, is scheduled to host Alaska Anchorage (8-1, 1-0 and second to 10-0, 2-0 Western Washington in the GNAC) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Nicholson Pavilion in Ellensburg, and the contest will air at the CWU Athletics YouTube page.

The Seawolves have beaten the Wildcats 17 times in a row since Valentine’s Day 2013 and in 30 of 38 head-to-head since February 1, 2003, but Central is off to its best best 12-game start since it opened 9-3, 4-1 and reached the GNAC Tournament semifinals against Alaska Anchorage in 2018-19.

Kizzah Maltezo is the Wildcats’ and the GNAC’s top scorer with 19 points per game, Samantha Bowman is the leading rebounder (16 per) and shot blocker (three per), and Kassidy Malcolm is the best 3-point shooter with 26 made at a .456 clip.

“Rebounding is all effort and about trusting my teammates,” said Bowman, a 6-foot-3-inch junior center from Zillah. “It is a side effect of having a good offense because it helps fuel each other.”

Bowman and Malcolm are also Central’s second- and third-leading scorers with 18- and 17-point averages.

“Having multiple people scoring double figures is great,” Bowman said. “I know I can always count on them to give 120 percent every time we step on the floor. It also shows that we can share the ball well as a team.”

The Wildcats outscore opponents by an average of 72-66, outshoot them .431-.410 from the floor, .338-.303 from 3-point range — as nobody in the GNAC makes more than Central’s nine per game — and a GNAC-best .753-.713 from the free throw line, outrebound them 40-35, out-assist them 16-14, out-block them 4-2 and give away the ball three fewer times.

Nicole Pinckney, a 5-foot-5-inch Seawolves junior guard, leads Alaska Anchorage with 10 points per outing as her side buries rivals with a conference-high 73 points scored to 54 allowed per game, outshoots them .412-.359 from the field and .314-.283 from downtown, out-boards them 36-34, out-assists them 16-12, snags a conference-high 12 steals to five surrendered, and commits nine fewer turnovers, also a conference best.

In the meantime, the Wildcats beat NCAA Division III Whitworth (5-6) of Spokane 89-63 — their biggest margin of victory this season and their new game-high points — in their nonconference finale before 198 people Dec. 30 at Nicholson Pavilion.

Maltezo scored 26 points and sank six of nine triples with five assists and a rebound as Central outscored the Pirates 20-5 in the third quarter and beat them for second time in as many tries since 2015.

The Wildcats out-shot Whitworth .530-.407 from the field and .483-.333 from 3-point range, made all five free throws, outrebounded the Pirates 39-26, outhustled them 19-14 off the bench, 40-28 in the paint and 7-2 on fast breaks.

Malcolm (22 points, 8-for-13 from the floor, 4-for-5 from range and 2-2 from the line with six rebounds and three assists) and Bowman (12 points on 6-for-6 shooting and five rebounds) kept Whitworth off-balance.

Tara Kanashiro (a 5-foot-5 sophomore guard) led the Pirates with 12 points.

CENTRAL WASHINGTON 89, WHITWORTH 63

WHI 21 13 5 24 — 63

CWU 28 19 20 22 — 89

SCORING — Whitworth (5-6): Tara Kanashiro 12, Kimberly Dewey 11, Quincy McDeid 10, Madison Hagen 10, Devyn Cope 8, Megan Dorney 8, Olivia Mayer 4. 3-pointers — 6 (Kanashiro 3, Hagen 2, McDeid). Totals 22 13-17 63.

Central Washington (8-4): Kizzah Maltezo 26, Kassidy Malcolm 22, Samantha Bowman 12, Valerie Huerta 7, Shaylee Coulter-Fa’amafu 6, Cassidy Gardner 5, Claire Heitschmidt 4, Jenna Troy 3, Brinley Hagemeier 2, Kiera Bush 2. 3-pointers — 14 (Maltezo 6, Malcolm 4, Coulter-Fa’amafu 2, Gardner, Huerta). Totals 35 5-5 89.

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