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Umpqua's 97-61 win over Southwestern Oregon gives coach Stricklin 600th win as head coach -www.nrtoday.com

Written by Tom Eggers

WINCHESTER — After Southwestern Oregon scored 12 unanswered points at the start of the second half to tie the game at 37-37, the Umpqua Community College women's basketball team went to work.

The No. 1-ranked Riverhawks demolished the Lakers outside, inside and in transition with a 20-2 run to regain control, and continued on to post a 97-61 win Wednesday night in the Southern Region opener at the UCC gym.

"You can't make mistakes against them because they're so good ... you can't have a bad six to eight minutes or you'll get blown out," said Southwestern Oregon coach Mike Herbert. "They’re so big and Dave (Stricklin) uses what he has so well. All of them can play and shoot."

Kristi Fallin, a Roseburg High graduate, paced five Riverhawks in double figures with 30 points — 17 coming in the first half. The sophomore guard hit five three-point field goals, and added five rebounds and four steals in over 32 minutes on the court.

Umpqua shot 55 percent (41-for-74) from the field, including a sizzling 71 percent (24-for-34) over the final 20 minutes. The Riverhawks got 15 points and eight rebounds from Kirsten Strawn, 12 points and 10 rebounds from Cassandra Tiggett, and 11 points apiece from Cassie Scheffelmaier and Roseburg grad Kate Wilton.

"We definitely had some lapses tonight," said UCC guard Miranda Holenstein, who contributed six points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals. “Some parts were ugly and some parts looked really good. We didn't come out ready to play like we should've (in the second half), but we always find a way to get ourselves back into it. For us, it’s about playing defense, getting rebounds and playing the transition game."

The Riverhawks (14-1) gave Stricklin — in his 14th year as UCC's head coach — his 600th career coaching win. Stricklin is 341-86 at Umpqua (winning NWAACC titles in 1997 and 2000) and went 259-27 in eight years at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, Calif.

"It (win total) shows we’ve been consistent over the years," Stricklin said. "I've been around a lot of good players. I’ve had a lot of players who've bought into what we do and it’s worked out really well."

This year’s club — the players and coaches believe — has the ingredients to make a run at the NWAACC championship, assuming it can stay healthy. Eight Riverhawks played Wednesday, as former Glendale standout Gretchen Owens sat out with a knee injury. The first goal is to win the Southern Region title.

"I love it (uptempo style) more than anything," said Fallin, UCC’s leading scorer for the season at over 24 points a game. "We’re going fast every practice, that's what he (Stricklin) encourages us to do. We're pushing the ball a lot quicker this year and we're not selfish — we look for the hot hand. We know we’ll be in the best shape at the end of the game."

"Kristi has been the go-to player for us, but we all depend on each other," Holenstein said. "This team works harder, we all get along. We know it's about the win, not who scores the most points."

Stricklin was pleased with how his team responded after its shaky start in the second half. Fallin sparked the surge with a pair of 3-pointers and a two-point basket, and Strawn had five points. The Lakers (5-8) found themselves down 57-39 and it was over.

"That’s one of the great mysteries of coaching when you come out for the first 1 1/2 minutes and look like a completely different team," he said. "We were out of sync. But for 10 minutes (of the second half) we looked like a force. We can be explosive."

"They got rebounds, No. 4 (Fallin) shoots lights out and everybody else gets layups," Herbert said. "There's not much you can do."

Nicole Brzeczek led SWOCC with 18 points, sinking four of five 3-pointers. Jessica Hatley, a Glide grad, didn’t score in five minutes for the Lakers, who finished 40 percent from the field and committed 26 turnovers.

The Riverhawks resume league play on Saturday in Salem against Chemeketa.


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