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Portland, Lane match up in battle for playoffs

"It's like a game seven ... We had a game seven the other night, and we've got a game seven tonight."

By John William Howard,

PORTLAND, Ore. - Even after more than three months of basketball, it all comes down to tonight. Lane and Portland will match up one more time, fighting for a ticket to the 2013 Men's NWAACC Championships in Tri-Cities, Wash.

For one team, the fight is to hang on to their playoff spot. For the other, they are returning to life after two years of futility and trying to make the tournament for the first time in school history.

Freshman guard Jared Kelsay (left)
Lane began the season on a hot streak. They finished the preseason 11-2, reaching the top spot in the coaches poll on Dec. 20 after starting the preseason ranked sixth. The regular season began much the same way, with Lane winning five of their first six games.

From that point on, starting Dec. 23 at Umpqua, Lane wouldn't win back to back games for the rest of the season, dropping them from first place in the Southern Region. Tonight, however, they have a chance to start all over again.

Their opponent is looking at things from a much different perspective. Coming into the season, Portland had not won a game in over two years. They had hired a brand new coach in April, and weren't really returning any players from last years' active roster with the exception of one medical redshirt and one player who had only seen a few games on the court.

"The rest [of the team] were just guys that we brought in who had an interest in playing," said Tony Broadous, Portland CC head men's basketball coach. Broadous said that the process was difficult, given the fact that many players had already signed by the time he was hired, but that he and his coaching staff were able to find some "diamonds in the rough."

Freshman forward Warren Edmondson
The preseason was a rough one for Portland. Because of their struggles in the past, they were often matched up against the host team at the preseason tournaments so as to give the host a better chance of moving on to the second round. That meant that Portland, with their youth and inexperience, had to wade through some tough adversity before ever playing in a league game.

That's when things turned around and Portland began to string some victories together, moving from the near basement of the Southern Region to a place where the playoffs - yes, the playoffs - seemed possible. That stretch included a road win over the eventual Southern Region champion Chemeketa Storm, a game in which Portland had only seven players on their roster, and the season finale in which Portland, with their backs against the wall, defeated Lane to force the play-in game and stay alive in the hunt for the playoffs.

Now, both teams control their own destinies. The only scoreboard watching tonight will be the one on the wall of the Cascade Gymnasium in Portland in front of what Broadous expects to be a fantastic crowd of community supporters. When the final buzzer sounds, one team will have their proverbial passports stamped, and the other will go home.

"It's like a game seven, that's what we call it," said Broadous. "We had a game seven the other night, and we've got a game seven tonight."

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