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Basketball: NWAACC tournament coming into focus

Tri-City Herald - Feb 16, 2014

Not since 2009 have both the Columbia Basin College men’s and women’s basketball teams qualified for the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championship tournament at the same time.

But it’s going to happen again this year.

The CBC women and the Clark College men were the first two teams to qualify for the tourney, set for March 1-4 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

Sixteen men’s teams and 16 women’s squads will qualify for the four-day tournament.

The CBC women (22-3) have won 16 straight games and have been ranked No. 1 in the seasonlong poll. CBC coach Cheryl Holden has a deep team so talented that no one dominates the minutes. Most of her players usually play just over a half of the contests.

Still, there are three players averaging double digits in scoring, with Courtney Nelson (13.6), Sierra Higheagle (11.0) and Sydney Mercer (10.3).

Clark’s men, out of Vancouver, also clinched a berth Feb. 8.

The top-ranked Penguins (21-1) are coached by former Prosser High standout Alex Kirk. Colin Spickerman (Jesuit of Portland) leads the team in scoring at 19.5 points.

But now the CBC men, under head coach Rolando Garcia, are joining the party.

Garcia’s Hawks got off to a great start in East Region play last month, sporting an 8-1 East Region record before dropping three consecutive contests including 1-point losses in the final seconds over the past two games.

But despite losing 82-81 to Spokane on Saturday night, the CBC men (15-9 overall) still clinched a tournament berth.

The Hawks have five players averaging in double-figure scoring Stephen Walter (15.8 points), Mitchell Zapien (15.7), Justin Smith (14.9), Andrew Reddout (13.8) and James Lopez (12.4).

As of Sunday night, nine spots in the women’s tournament have been filled, while nine are also locked up for the men.

Here are the other teams who have clinched tournament berths in the past week:

Women

Bellevue (18-7). Team is coached by Jeremy Eggers, who also coaches Bellevue men’s team. Former Davis High star Mel Stubblefield is an assistant, and Ellensburg freshman Kelcie Russell is on the roster.

Clark (20-3). High school fans may remember Clark’s head coach, Al Aldridge, who was the longtime coach at Prairie High until a few years ago. Brooke Bowen (Skyview) leads the Penguins with 17.86 points a game.

Lane (20-5). The defending NWAACC champion, the Titans have a local connection in freshman Heidi Walchli (Hermiston). This is the highest scoring team in the NWAACC at 84.4 points. Shelby Snook (Roseburg) is the star here, averaging 20.0 points a game.

Lower Columbia (18-6). Kaylea Knox (Rainier, Ore.) is the team’s leading scorer at 12.1 a game.

Skagit Valley (18-7). Sydney Brown (Burlington-Edison) is the Cardinals’ top scorer at 13.2 a game.

Umpqua (19-6). Two big scorers here: Ashli Payne (Olympic) at 18.7 points, and Kyndal Charleston (Los Angeles) at 17.3.

Walla Walla (16-7). Coach Bobbi Hazeltine seems to get her Warriors to the tournament every year. Umatilla sophomore Jessica Siler has been a strong presence in the paint. Amy DeLong (Vale, Ore.) leads the team with 11.5 points.

Whatcom (14-8). Sophomore Nathalie Gruber hails from Ellensburg, while freshman Nikki Gilbert is from Eastmont. Kortney Grattic (Lynden) averages 19.1 points.

Men

Bellevue (15-10). Eggers’ other team. But Kennewick High fans may follow the Bulldogs because Lions grad Reggie Clinton is on this team, and he averages 5.9 points. Austin O’Keefe (Jackson of Everett) leads the team in scoring at 18.13 points.

Big Bend (19-7). Sophomore guard Brendan Westendorf (Kentridge) is worth the price of admission alone, as he has a number of moves to score. He averages 29.8 points a game. Bryce Perez (Moses Lake) and Joe Timofeyev (Moses Lake Christian) are local connections.

Highline (19-6). Doug McDaniel (Killeen, Texas) is the team’s leading scorer at 15.6 points a game.

Pierce (18-5). Coach Bill Mendelson went to Las Vegas and grabbed four players from there. Five players average in double-figure scoring, led by Gary Jacobs (Sierra Vista, Las Vegas) at 12.8.

Skagit Valley (17-8). Head coach Brock Veltri also has four players from Las Vegas. But leading scorer Malik Barnes, averaging 12.3 points, hails from Ingraham High of Seattle.

Treasure Valley (16-8). Head coach Ryan Zimmerman has recruited high and low to put together his team, which is leading the Easter Region standings right now. The players hail from five states and Canada. John Fletcher (San Diego) averages 18.0 points, while DeSean Mattox (Phoenix, Arix.) averages 16.0.

Whatcom (17-5). This team boasts the top scorer in the entire NWAACC in Kyle Impero (Nooksack), who averages 30.1 points per game. The former state Class 1A high school player of the year redshirted his freshman year at Western Washington University before spending the past two seasons with the Orcas.


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