Dec 10, 2013

Full Court Press: A high-scoring affair


A year ago, the bi-weekly publication Full Court Press got started as a way to bridge the gap between the power rankings. With the start of the 2013-14 NWAACC basketball season, FCP is back to provide a little analysis on the off-weeks and highlight some of the biggest happenings around the league as we careen toward region play in mid-January.

In some league-wide news, the initial coaches polls have been released, and the results have been added in to the first edition of the Joward Power Rankings, which were published on Dec. 3. 

At the moment, things are still a little shaky. This early on, most teams have faced a bunch of unknowns, including alumni teams, "all-star" teams and a few club teams from around the northwest. That can make it difficult to determine the haves from the have nots as far as a solid record is concerned, but with the holidays around the corner, we also have a host of crossover and holiday tournaments on the horizon which should provide ample perspective and discussion material. 

NWAACC Men (Rankings | Coaches Poll)

Even with the season being so young, it's unusual to have so many undefeated teams. Four currently grace the standings - Whatcom, Peninsula, Big Bend and Highline. Two, so far, have clearly asserted themselves, and the coaches seem to agree. Though Treasure Valley (4-1) picked up a huge boost by nabbing three first-place votes, Whatcom (5-0) and Big Bend (4-0) have outdistanced the rest of the contenders by a mile or two, and both will have a chance to face undefeated Highline before the year's end.

Game of the Week:

Dec. 13 - No. 1 Big Bend vs. Highline

Talk about an intriguing match up. Both teams average in the league's top-five in scoring, and each team gets it done in a completely different manner. Brendan Westendorf (34 ppg, 62% FG) is arguably one of the best scorer the league has seen these last few years, to be mentioned in the same breath as Tacoma great Mark McLaughlin (Now at Central Washington) and former Peninsula guard JT Terrell (USC). Westendorf isn't scoring in a vacuum, and he's not just jacking up an insane number of shots to bring down his points. He is one of the best shooters among players who actually take shots from outside the paint, and he's a threat from everywhere on the floor. Highline's resume and roster may not be quite as impressive, but their balance makes them a difficult team to stop. No one player is averaging more than 15.25 points, and yet they manage nearly 95 points per game. This is a major chance to prove they belong at the top of the rankings, and a major first step in their bid to make the tournament in March.

It's difficult to imagine how this could be anything but high scoring, and though Highline has an edge in 3-point shooting and rebounding, this looks like it should belong to Big Bend. I won't bet the house I don't own, but the chances of a Vik victory are pretty strong.

NWAACC Women (Rankings | Coaches Poll)

Columbia Basin is at it again. They've won five of their last six, and have broken 100 points in their last two. While their average of nearly 85 points per contest is likely to come down, it's clear that this is nothing like some of the CBC teams we've seen in the last few years. Defensively minded in the past, the Hawks are third in the league in scoring while only having attempted 75 three-pointers. And if they hold on to the defensive principles of Coach Holden? Oi.

Game of the Week:

Dec. 14 - No. 1 Blue Mountain vs. No. 5 Chemeketa

The last time the Timberwolves and Storm met, top-ranked Blue Mountain squeaked out a 59-56 victory. It was sluggish and fairly unusual for a women's game, as the teams combined for five (FIVE) three pointers, which is rather unheard of. Since then, Chemeketa has faced (and beaten) only one NWAACC opponent, spending most of their time out of state (Salt Lake CC, College of Southern Idaho). The Storm dropped both of their non-NWAACC games, making their 4-3 record a little misleading. Blue Mountain actually hasn't played since, and the few games before knocking off Chemeketa were close as well. It should be an interesting measuring-stick of a game, as both teams have nearly identical numbers, yet Blue Mountain is ranked 4th by the coaches and Chemeketa wasn't mentioned.

In spite of all the great numbers from Chemeketa, this one will likely not be quite as close. Blue Mountain has had time to rest up and work on a few things, and the road weary Storm may not be able to hold Blue Mountain to 37% shooting again. Timberwolves with the win, but still not going away.

Dec 3, 2013

No. 1 Blue Mountain leads women's rankings



NWAACC Women's Basketball

It's a little strange to look at the women's power rankings and not see Lane, Yakima Valley or Walla Walla. It's early on, but this being a two-year league makes for incredibly quick turnarounds - and incredibly quick melt-downs. Lane looks a little unproven against quality opponents, and they may make a victorious return, but the south - as always - is strong. Really strong. Four teams are ranked, and five, maybe six teams could end up making the post season. Remember, though, it IS early, and all this is likely to change. These rankings are to establish a starting point, and are often far removed from the way things play out in the end. Be sure to check out Full Court Press, the bi-weekly publication meant to fill in the gaps between rankings.

And to get this out of the way, a quick update on the rankings' author: Joward (me) now works for a little newspaper in Columbia County, Oregon. High school athletics are the game (literally), but the rankings will continue throughout the season, most likely every two weeks to coincide with the coaches poll. No word on whether the NWAACC will pick up the rankings, but they should be posted around the same time.

Also, your responses, sports takes, arguments and venting are welcome here, as the original intent behind this system was to generate discussion. Your input is always greatly appreciated, and you can reach me in a number of different ways throughout the season by commenting on each story, sending me an email, or contacting me via twitter @JowardHoward.

The Coaches Poll, released 6 days after the Power Rankings on Dec. 9, are in italics below each team's ranking. Here are the top eight women's teams to start out 2012-13:
                                                                                                                        

1. Blue Mountain (5-0)
No. 4 Coaches
Last Year: No. 7 Eastern 
Did not make the tournament

If the start for the Timberwolves is any reflection of how their season in the ever-difficult Eastern Region will play out, Blue Mountain will be a force come tournament-time. And unlike many teams in the early going, BMCC has faced a couple of solid squads. They knocked off No. 5 Chemeketa, No. 7 SW Oregon and No. 8 Whatcom, all in reasonably close, low-scoring games. They don't have any stats that really jump out except for one - they're holding opponents to an average of just over 56 points per contest. For reference, that is a lower scoring average than all but two of the teams in the league, and they're not doing it by jumping in the passing lanes or getting blocks.

                                                                                                                         

2. Clackamas (5-0)
No. 2 Coaches
Last Year: No. 2 Southern Seed
NWAACC Runner-Up

Clackamas might be missing many of the pieces that carried them to the final last year, but they're off to a solid, if a little discombobulated start. After their 82-81 defeat of Umpqua (box) in the championship of their Thanksgiving tournament, coach Jim Martineau said it was "pretty good for a bunch of freshmen running around," but that might have been an understatement. They lead the league (by a whole lot) in three pointers made and attempted, are second in assists among teams who have played at least two games and are fourth in scoring. And unlike years past, they're not just a drive-and-dish team. They have a number of players who are strong in the post, namely sophomore Jasmine Gibbs-Brown, and are lethal from distance if they get started.
                                                                                                                         


3. Columbia Basin (2-1)
No. 1 Coaches
Last Year: No. 2 Eastern Seed
Tournament: L-W-W-W


It's impossible to overlook the Hawks in any conversation, and it's partly their reputation that has them so high to begin with, but the real reason has almost everything to do with their roster. 11 sophomores. And if history serves us, that tends to bode well for coach Holden, especially when Columbia Basin is as balanced as they have been to start things out. They have three players averaging 10.25 points per game to lead the team, and it comes from vastly different places. 5-foot-nine center Alicia Jones does (literally) all her damage from inside the arc and at the free-throw line. Courtney Neilson shoots the highest percentage on the team, and Sierra Higheagle is their threat from deep. This team, like Blue Mountain, is another defensively minded group, and as they say, defense wins championships.

                                                                                                                         



4. Umpqua (2-1)
No. 5 Coaches
Last Year: No. 5 Southern
Did not make the tournament

This Riverhawks team is fairly typical of the groups from Umpqua - really big with good post players, strong defense, lots of rebounds and blocks, and lots (and lots) of points. They frustrated Clackamas in their only loss of the young season, using their height and fight to go for the boards in the first half. Though Clackamas responded, the post-up talent of 6-foot-1 Leilani Morris has proven hard to deal with, and should be an offensive staple along with 5-11 freshman Ashli Payne. On the break, Payne is especially dangerous, and not just because of her speed. If Umpqua can hold things together, they should find themselves back in the tournament once again.


                                                                                                                         

5. Chemeketa (4-1)
Unranked Coaches
Last Year: No. 3 Southern Seed
Tournament: W-W-L-L

Looking purely at the experience on this year's team, the No. 5 ranking seems a little premature. Buuuut then you notice the size the Storm are boasting this season. They have three girls who stand over 6 feet tall, and eight who are at least 5-foot-nine. They've been a bit run-and-gun in the last few years with a heavy reliance on the three-point shot, but with height like they have, they can simply overpower other teams in the post. In fact, they nearly knocked off No. 1 Blue Mountain while only hitting three treys, a feat which might have been unheard of in recent years. It was only a three point game, thanks to a bit of tough defense on the Timberwolves' Mar'Shay Moore, who got her average in points, but finished just 5-20 from the field. Even if the Storm don't rumble this year, they should be a strong contender next season, should all go well.

                                                                                                                         


6. Bellevue (2-1)
No. 7 Coaches
No. 1 Northern Seed
Tournament: W-L-W-W

Four six-footers surely have the Bulldogs feeling good coming in after a season in which they were forced to re-group early on. They lost their leading scorer at the beginning of the season, and somehow managed to put the pieces together well enough to win the North and make it to the tournament  ranked in the top eight. Bellevue has seven sophomores on this team, including 6-foot-two center Alexis Berrysmith. As any basketball coach will tell you, "you can't coach size," and that may be Bellevue's biggest (really?) asset. There isn't much info on Bellevue after three games, but falling to No. 3 Columbia Basin isn't much to feel bad about, and knocking off the defending champs in the young season's first contest adds a big boost.


                                                                                                                         

7. SW Oregon (5-2)
No. 8 Coaches
Last Year: No. 4 Southern Seed
Tournament: L-W-W-L
It might not help them in games that they've got players from eight different states and/or territories, but the Lakers have had an impressive start to this season's campaign. Their only two losses are to No. 1 Blue Mountain and No. 4 Umpqua, as is to be expected. Last year, the post-magic of Quinne Eharris made the Lakers a difficult match up. Now, the offense is funneled through sophomore guard Kayla Siri, whose 20.8 points, 7.3 boards, 3.6 assists and 3.7 steals make her one of the most dynamic and well rounded players in the entire league. It'll be interesting to watch and see how much support she can get, as the season rolls on, but with a threat like that, the Lakers will be dangerous on any given night.


                                                                                                                         

8. Clark (2-1)
Unranked Coaches
Last Year: No. 2 Western Seed
Tournament: W-L-W-L
Many of the teams from the Western Region have been largely untested so far, and as the Penguins were able to hang tough with No. 1 Blue Mountain, they get the lone nod from the West this week. Things don't get easier from here, though. Clark will have to play at No. 2 Clackamas on Dec. 10, a trial by fire if ever there was one. The Penguins have their second and third leading scorers back from last years' 6th place team, and if they can stick with Clackamas, the schedule softens up before the Penguins host their crossover tournament on Dec. 20.

                                                                                                                        

No surprise, Big Bend men lead initial rankings


NWAACC Men's Basketball

It's that time again! Time for the arguments to begin, but remember - this first set of rankings are usually complete shot in the dark, with the exception of a few teams. There is bound to be a bad egg, and bound to be a team who shows up "out of the blue". This year the league looks a little different, as two coaches to have won a championship in the last five seasons have moved on to other occupations - Carl Howell at Tacoma, and Lance Von Vogt at Peninsula - and Portland has continued to improve, looking for the first tournament berth in school history. Be sure to check out Full Court Press, the bi-weekly publication meant to fill in the gaps between rankings.

And to get this out of the way, a quick update on the rankings' author: Joward (me) now works for a little newspaper in Columbia County, Oregon. High school athletics are the game (literally), but the rankings will continue throughout the season, most likely every two weeks to coincide with the coaches poll. No word on whether the NWAACC will pick up the rankings, but they should be posted around the same time. 

Also, your responses, sports takes, arguments and venting are welcome here, as the original intent behind this system was to generate discussion. Your input is always greatly appreciated, and you can reach me in a number of different ways throughout the season by commenting on each story, sending me an email, or contacting me via twitter @JowardHoward.

The coaches poll, released 6 days after the Power Rankings on Dec. 9, are in italics below each team's ranking. Here are the top men's teams for 2012-13 out of the gate:

                                                                                                                         

1. Big Bend (4-0)
No. 2 Coaches
Last year: No. 1 Eastern Seed
Tournament: W-W-L-L

I'd venture to guess that not many people would argue against Big Bend as the preseason number one. Last years' team was loaded, especially with the addition of guard sensation Brendan Westendorf. The 6-foot-six guard tore apart the league last year, finishing third in scoring (22.2) and assists (5.8), and was one of the highlights of the 2013 NWAACC Tournament - "one of" being a bit of an understatement. Westendorf scored 112 points through the tournament's four games, and sat down for only 1:17 total. That's a minute and seventeen seconds. If Westendorf improves as most sophomores do, the Eastern Region had better look out, as right now he's leading the league with a cool (cough, wait what?) 33.5 points per game.


                                                                                                                         


2. Whatcom (4-0)
No. 1 Coaches
Last Year: No. 2 Northern Seed
Tournament: W-L-L


Led by another bright spot from last year's tournament, the Orca's lost by the hair of their chinny-chin-chins to new No. 1 Big Bend on the second day of the championships (box). This time around, Kyle Impero will have a little more support, as Whatcom's roster is bolstered by eight sophomores. They'll also return Alex Duncan, the team's third leading scorer and leader in free throw percentage. With Peninsula as an unknown in the North with their new coach, and Edmonds having lost their stars from last years' finals team, the Northern Region might not be quite as tight as in recent years.


                                                                                                                         

3. Yakima Valley (5-0)
No. 7 Coaches
Last Year: No. 2 Eastern Seed
Tournament: L-W-L

The first thing you notice when you take a quick peak at the Yak's roster is the host of sophomores. Seven players, mostly returners from last season's tournament team. That bunch is led by one of the best names in the league, 6-foot-5 guard Joel Yellow-Owl. Last year's stats have a pretty interesting trend. Twice, Yellow-Owl took more than 20 shots, and in both games, finished with over 30 points. For the rest of the season, he averaged just over 13 points. See what I'm getting at here? As a sophomore, and with the team's other two top scorers (Yellow-Owl was second) gone, he should get a lot more touches. And that's a good thing, given that he shot 57% during games in which he had 17 or more attempts.
                                                                                                                        

4. SW Oregon (4-1)
Unranked Coaches
Last Year: No. 2 Southern Seed
Tournament: L-L

Being a stats guy, I dearly wish the NWAACC had a column for 2nd chance points, and all because of the numbers the Lakers put up. Through their first five games, SW Oregon has led the league in rebounding at more than 51 boards per game, while coming in second in both three-pointers made and attempted. And while they don't shoot the league best percentage from beyond the arc or from the field overall, they're getting to those long rebounds and getting points out of the deal: more than 15 points a game, in fact. It's a hustle-stat, and something that should take the team far if they can keep up up. Should the Lakers start nailing a few more of those shots (they lead the league in field goals attempted) they'll be hard to beat.

                                                                                                                         


5. Pierce (3-1)
Unranked Coaches
Last Year: No. 1 Western Seed
Tournament: L-W-W-L

Last year's team was somewhat of a one man show, and while Tyrell Lewis was a great show, the Raiders didn't amount to much once they hit the tournament. This time around, a considerably re-tooled Pierce squad is leading the league in assists - and by a mile. But hey, guess what? They did it last year, too, and right now, the Raiders are a far more balanced team. It's early to call anything, but if Pierce can rattle off a few games to start off the regular season, they'll be hard to catch in the traditionally weak (relatively, look at the archives before you hate on me) western region, especially with Tacoma being less of a factor after head coach Carl Howell stepped down.

                                                                                                                          

6. Portland (4-2)
Unranked Coaches
Last Year: No. 5 South
Did not make the tournament

This selection might look like a little bit of a long shot, but what else are preseason rankings for? This is a Portland program that sat largely useless for much of it's history until coach Tony Broadus stepped in and turned things around. With hardly any time to prepare, Broadus was able to put together a roster and made a run at the program's first playoff berth. They nearly got it, too. A narrow play-in loss to Lane knocked Portland from contention, but with a year under their belts, a stronger recruiting class and time to prepare for the upcoming season could lead to a strong showing for Portland. This time around, they're not the upstarts. The chip on their shoulder is still there, but nobody is gonna count the Panthers out.

                                                                                                                         

7. Treasure Valley (4-1)
No. 3 Coaches
Last Year: No. 6 East
Did not make the tournament

In the first two seasons of the JOWARD Power Rankings, the Chuckar men have never been ranked, but their torrid start has been enough to catch some attention. Given, they've only played one NWAACC opponent, but their seven sophomores make them one of the more experienced programs in the league. They're second in assists, and have a big three averaging more than 50 points a game. The assists and relatively balanced scoring from several different names spells something important: options. They probably won't win the east, but with the usual suspects (Spokane and Walla Walla) a combined 3-5 so far, they have a chance to see the tournament.

                                                                                                                         


8. Clackamas (4-2)
Unranked Coaches
Last Year: No. 3 Southern Seed
Tournament: W-L-L

The Cougars have to be excited to see the return of one of the better shooting guards in the league from last season's tournament team, Michone Hopkins. As a freshman, he was third on the team in scoring and first in assists, but the biggest contribution was from beyond the arc. Hopkins was second in the league in 3-point shooting at a blistering 43%. And he wasn't one of the players who gets in by shooting a few here and there, and simply getting lucky. Clackamas will also get 6-foot-9 forward Grant Sitton back, whose jumper is surprisingly silky, given his length.
                                                                                                                        

Feb 27, 2013

Edmonds, Big Bend, Pierce top final rankings


NWAACC Men's Basketball

Scores | Video | Bracket | Tournament Stats | Game Recaps

Ladies and Gentlemen, the wait is over! A year removed from last year's fantastic spectacle, the NWAACC's best are set to be at it again. The first round has a few upset possibilities. Firstly, Clackamas has been on a tear to finish the season, and if they can keep things close with No. 5 Yakima Valley, they have a chance. Also, No. 6 Whatcom and No. 8 Centralia is a toss up at 8 a.m. Whatcom had a tough finish to the season, while Centralia was hot, while low scoring. Lastly, Spokane has a solid chance to knock off the No. 2 seed from the south, SW Oregon, in the late game on Saturday. 

I will be on site recapping games for the league, as well as live tweeting the entire event. You can follow me @JowardHoward for updates, and be sure to keep an eye on the league website for recaps, photos and updated brackets. Also, because the arena is primarily used for hockey, bring  some warm socks if you plan on sitting near the court. With that, enjoy the tournament!

 Coaches rankings are in italics under each team's record. If you have a question or a comment feel free to leave it below, respond via twitter or send me an email

                                                                                                                         

1. Edmonds (23-3, 13-1 North)
No. 2 (tied) coaches
Previous ranking: No. 1, No. 1 coaches

The coaches have Edmonds down into a tie with Pierce for second place, but I'm not quite ready to de-crown the Tritons just yet. After falling to Whatcom, they won their final five games of the season to finish 13-1 in a very tough Northern Region. In addition to having the highest win percentage vs. NWAACC competition, Edmonds also has had one of the more difficult regular season schedules. Forward Shaq McKissic has stepped up in a huge way en route to winning the Northern Region MVP distinction. McKissic may be the best all around player in the league this year. second in points, third in rebounding, sixth in steals and 18th in assists, he is the only player in the NWAACC to be in the top 25 of all the major statistical categories. And don't forget that Edmonds has a pair of players scoring 20 points or more per game. If McKissic and Riccardo Maxwell both get it going, they're hard to pick against.

No. 1 Edmonds will face Lower Columbia at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         


2. Big Bend (24-4, 13-1 East)
No. 1 coaches
Previous ranking: No. 2, No. 1 coaches

Ever since losing the regular season opener to Spokane, Big Bend has been perfect, finishing league play at 13-1. Led by the 21+ points of region MVP and Freshman of the Year and  Brendan Westendorf, Big Bend is one of the best scoring teams in the NWAACC, averaging 88.36 points per game. Oddly enough, only one other player from Big Bend made the all-region's first or second team, but Big Bend made up for nearly half of the all-defensive team, which is telling. Not only can Big Bend score, but they're well rounded on both ends of the floor, take care of the ball, AND they're balanced on offense. Four players average in double figure scoring, and three players have broken the 30 point barrier. Points can come from anywhere.

No. 2 Big Bend will face Lane at 10 am on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         

3. Pierce (23-4, 15-1 West)
No. 2 (tied) coaches
Previous ranking: No. 3, No. 2 coaches

One thing that is interesting about the tournament is that, as time goes on, legs go soft. Meaning? The teams that run up and down, shoot tons of three pointers and score loads of points will have a harder time keeping up the same energy that they started out with. Pierce, while they score a lot, is not one of those teams. They shoot very high percentage shots, mostly from inside the arc, meaning that losing their legs due to exhaustion on day three and four of the tournament won't be as much of an issue.

No. 3 Pierce will face Everett at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                        

4. Tacoma (19-8, 12-4 West)
No. 5 coaches
Previous ranking: No. 7, NR coaches

Until they suffered a tough loss to Lower Columbia in their penultimate regular season game, Tacoma had been on quite the run, winning five games in a row after barely falling to Pierce on Feb. 2. Tacoma also seems to have found some offense in the latter stages of the season, putting up three 90+ point games in the final few weeks. That comes on the heels of a season in which the Western Region didn't do much scoring whatsoever. If Tacoma can keep up that pace with their defensive abilities, they'll be a tough opponent in the tournament.

No. 4 Tacoma will face Peninsula at noon on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         


5. Yakima Valley (20-8, 10-4 East)
No. 4 coaches
Previous ranking: NR, No. 4 coaches

Winning six out of their last seven will do a lot for Yakima Valley, who needed each and every single one of those wins to get ahead of Spokane, who finished a game behind the Yaks with the third seed in the East. YVCC can definitely score. They put up just over 85 points per game, but that's not what is most impressive about Yakima Valley. The wicked stat is blocks: they lead the NWAACC with 115 blocks, or an average of almost four swats per outing. If they have the same scrappy, never-give-up, we're-never-down-by-too-much attitude that we saw last year (upset top-ranked Clark in the first round) then they are dangerous to whomever they face. Plus, how cool of a name is Joel Yellow-Owl?

No. 5 Yakima Valley will face Clackamas at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         



6. Whatcom (18-8, 10-4 North)
No. 4 coaches
Previous ranking: No. 4, No. 4 coaches

Whatcom is one of those teams that is simply more than a sum of their parts. They have good rebounding numbers (4th NWAACC), but that's about as flashy as things get. They also stumbled into the tournament, losing their final two games  and letting any chance of catching Edmonds slip out of their grasp. That said, those two losses were close, and Whatcom has managed to hold Shoreline under their average by 18 points AND outscore Edmonds in perhaps their biggest win of the season. 

No. 6 Whatcom will face No. 8 Centralia at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         


7. Chemeketa (17-8, 10-4 South)
No. 6 coaches
Previous ranking: No. 5, No. 5 coaches

Chemeketa has had their fair share of extremely close losses, games in which things could have gone either way. We could see Chemeketa sitting at 12-2 in league instead of 10-4, but the Storm also have several ugly losses on their record as well, namely the 20 point debacle against Mt. Hood. Part of that is because the South isn't quite as well separated as the other regions. It may not have been perfect, but Chemeketa did what they had to do in order to break the tie and take the Southern Region title for  themselves. And let's not forget that Chemeketa has a lot of experience in this tournament. A number of players were on the team last year that made it all the way to the championship, where they fell to Tacoma.

No. 7 Chemeketa will face Walla Walla at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         


8. Centralia (18-9, 12-4 West)
No, 8 coaches
Previous ranking: NR, NR coaches

Another one of those defensive teams in a defensive region, Centralia's only in-league losses this regular season were twice each to No. 3 Pierce and No. 4 Tacoma. Perhaps a credit to their defense, Centralia somehow managed to win 18 games this season whilst sitting fourth from the bottom in the league in scoring. Teams have only broken 80 on Centralia just twice, and the Blazers have one of the lowest opponent scoring averages in the NWAACC. That said, they will face teams in this tournament that can score better than many of their Western Region counterparts, putting their defense to the definite test.

No. 8 Centralia will face No. 6 Whatcom at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         

No. 1 Clackamas women take narrow lead over Lane into championship tournament



NWAACC Women's Basketball

ScoresVideo | Bracket | Tournament Stats | Game Recaps

It's finally here! The NWAACC Tournament is no longer right around the corner, the brackets are set and it begins in just a few days time in the Toyota Center in Tri-Cities, Wash. Taking a quick look at the first round match ups, pretty much everything is an easy pick with the exception of Clark vs. Whatcom, the late game on Saturday night. Another possible upset in the first round is Skagit Valley and Lower Columbia. LCCC pulled of a big road win over No. 4 Centralia earlier in the season, and while they aren't a threat to win it all, they have show ability to step up in big games and catch teams napping. 

I will be on site recapping games for the league, as well as live tweeting the entire event. You can follow me @JowardHoward for updates, and be sure to keep an eye on the league website for recaps, photos and updated brackets. Also, because the arena is primarily used for hockey, bring  some warm socks if you plan on sitting near the court. With that, enjoy the tournament!

Coaches rankings are in italics under each team's record. If you have a question or a comment feel free to leave it below, respond via twitter or send me an email.

                                                                                                                        

1. Clackamas (23-3, 13-1 South)
No. 1 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 1, No. 2 coaches

Clackamas went 69 days in between losses until they made the trip down to No. 2 Lane and fell in a fantastic contest, 66-63 [box]. Now normally, a situation like that would see the winning team move up and the losing team move down. However, if you contrast the two games played in league, you have to lean in Clackamas' favor. The game Clackamas won at home, the Cougars shut down Lane in the second half and won by double digits. The road loss was by three measly points and on a night that point guard Laci Effenburger went an uncharacteristic 1-10 from the field with three turnovers and just one assist. Right now, Clackamas is a favorite to win it all, but they will still have to get past Lane one more time to do it.

No. 1 Clackamas will face Spokane at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         

2. Lane (26-2, 12-2 South)
No. 2 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 3, No. 1 coaches

Not all of the credit for Lane's win over No. 1 Clackamas can go to the fact that Clackamas had a bad night. In fact, that is only a small part of it. Lane is one of a handful of teams in the league that has the post presence, namely sophomore star and NWAACC Player of the Week Megan Shields, to contend with the twin (literally twin) towers of Clackamas. Shields netted 18 points, 6 boards and four blocks in the win, and was a huge difference maker in that game. Clackamas often relies on cutters to space out the floor for their three point shooters, and with Shields clogging up the lane (heh heh), that style becomes much more difficult.

No. 2 Lane will face No. 7 Yakima Valley at noon on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         


3. Walla Walla (23-3, 12-2 East)
No. 3 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 3, No. 3 coaches


While it wasn't exactly against all the top teams in the East, Walla Walla got things back on track to finish out their regular season campaign. The Warriors' two losses in the Eastern Region were close, by two and six points, and there doesn't seem to be a glaring hole in Walla Walla's front. They lead the East in scoring at just over 68 points per game, something that will win them a lot of contests, especially in a region that is so strong defensively. Walla Walla's defensive prowess will come in handy in the tournament, which is tough on teams that run for a living because of how close the games are to one another. The slow pace will make Walla Walla hard to beat as the tournament goes on.

No. 3 Walla Walla will face SW Oregon at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         



4. Centralia (21-5, 14-2 West)
No. 4 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 4, No. 4 coaches

The RPI ratings are rather telling when it comes to Centralia and the Western Region. The rating system does a good job of displaying strength of schedule and balancing that against the record of each team. That in mind, it's not too much of a surprise (if you've been following the last two seasons) that Centralia is ranked 6th and is the only Western Region team in the top half of the ratings other than Clark at No. 16. That said, aside from the confusing loss to Clark last week, Centralia has had an impressive season. They knocked off No. 3 Walla Walla 95-91 [box] in the opening preseason tournament, and hung tough with No. 1 Clackamas before falling 68-65 [box], a game in which Western Region MVP Kristen Schoenherr was more-or-less a nonfactor with four points and two boards. That proves that Centralia CAN play well in big games, but can they win them?

No. 4 Centralia will face Peninsula at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         

5. Columbia Basin (14-12, 10-4 East)
No. 6 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 8, No. 7 coaches


When the season started, there were some questions as to whether Columbia Basin would even make the tournament at all. Even looking at the surface of their overall record, it's simply decent at best. Then you notice that 10 of their 14 wins came during Eastern Region play, and the No. 5 ranking starts to make a little more sense. It's a little concerning that all four losses came in the last half of the regular season, but Columbia Basin has been impressive ever since the new year rolled around. They stayed extremely close with No. 3 Walla Walla and inched by No. 7 Yakima Valley 75-73 [box]. They are also another team from the East that gets by on their defense, making  them a difficult match up. Add that to the fact that they have been there before, namely the championship last time around, and that they are basically playing in their own backyard, and Columbia Basin could go far in this tournament.

No. 5 Columbia Basin will face Chemeketa at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         


6. Bellevue (19-8, 12-2 North)
No. 5 Coaches
Previous ranking: NR, NR coaches

When Brittany Barrington, a solid player from last year and a sophomore expected to carry the team this year, went Nov. 17 against Lane, it looked like the year might be over for Bellevue. They had a decent stretch of four wins, and finished the preseason a little better than expected. That's when things turned around in a big way for the Bulldogs. The regular season started off with wins of 42 and 51 points, and Bellevue's success didn't stop there. Airashay Rodgers and Demerea Caples pace Bellevue's scoring with just over ten points a game, and for now it seems that Bellevue has gotten along just fine without their star, especially seeing as their two losses were by a combined three points, and they finished the regular season on a seven game win streak.

No. 6 Bellevue will face Tacoma at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         

7. Yakima Valley (16-11, 9-5 East)
No. 8 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 5, No. 7 coaches

A newcomer to the rankings right at the last moment, Yakima Valley had an impressive finish to the regular season and will be walking into the tournament on a high note. If not for their narrow loss to No. 5 Columbia Basin, the Yaks would have won their final eight games. Most impressive about that stretch was the 56-50 victory [box] over No. 3 Walla Walla, a team that looked next to unstoppable for most of the season. As with many of the teams in the East (yes, the ever-broken record) Yakima Valley has great defensive stats, including the most total blocks of any Eastern Region team. The numbers may not look quite so shiny as those from the South, but remember that YVCC's pace is slower than that of the high-scoring Southern Region teams, something that will come to their aid in back to back games this weekend. 

No. 7 Yakima Valley will face No. 2 Lane at noon on Saturday, March 2

                                                                                                                         

8. Skagit Valley (19-8, 11-3 North)
No. 7 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 6, No. 5 coaches

The bump in the road that was their loss to Bellevue aside, Skagit Valley was on fire for the majority of their regular season. After picking up a pair of losses to Whatcom and Peninsula in the early going, they won nine straight to wrestle the second seed away from Whatcom. Despite not finishing at the top of their region, SVC actually led the North in scoring behind 18.6 points from sophomore forward Laken McClelland.

No. 8 Skagit Valley will face Lower Columbia at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 2  


                                                                                                                         

Feb 13, 2013

Clackamas women still undefeated in region


NWAACC Women's Basketball

Looking at the overall league stats, it's easy to see what each region excels at. Offense belongs to the South, where Lane, Umpqua, Clackamas and SW Oregon take up the top four slots in scoring average. The East is strong defensively. You don't see teams scoring over 80 points, unless you're looking in a mirror and you happen to be Walla Walla, who seems to have escaped the offensive woes of the Eastern Region. The North is all tied up: three teams are vying for the top spot, all tied at 8-2 on the season. The West seems to belong to Centralia, who have already  clinched a playoff spot, and can secure a region championship with one more victory.

Be sure to check back in a week's time for Full Court Press, a bi-weekly roundup of NWAACC basketball action to fill in the gaps. Coaches rankings are in italics under each team's record. If you have a question or a comment feel free to leave it below, respond via twitter or send me an email.

Full Court Press: Dark Horse Week is now live online! Do you have a dark horse prediction? 

                                                                                                                        

1. Clackamas (20-3, 10-0 South)
No. 1 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 1, No. 2 coaches

Right now, Clackamas is in position to be the first Southern Region team since Lane in 2008 to go undefeated in region play. In fact, only five teams have accomplished that feat since 2002, and looking forward easily the largest obstacle Clackamas has is the trip to visit No. 2 Lane on February 16th. As far as the top seed in the South is concerned, Clackamas would have to lose twice in order to fall to second, and with four games remaining, that chance is fairly small. The Cougars take on Mt. Hood (2-19, 0-10 South) and Portland (3-17, 2-8 South) in the final few weeks, as well as Umpqua, who hasn't had anywhere near the brilliant performances we saw early in the season. 

                                                                                                                         

2. Lane (22-2, 8-2 South)
No. 2 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 3, No. 1 coaches

Lane's loss to Clackamas on the road doesn't count as much of an upset. Their 67-63 [box] loss to Chemeketa on February definitely does, as Lane was held more than 20 points below their league-leading 86 points per game average. Now with two losses in region play, Lane will have to win out in order to hold off Chemeketa, who sits just one game behind the Titans in the region standings. That said, Lane is still very much a team to fear. Their depth and balance on both ends of the floor will serve them very, very well leading into the tournament, where they could very easily be a finals contender.

                                                                                                                         


3. Walla Walla (20-3, 9-2 East)
No. 3 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 3, No. 3 coaches


With another painful loss, Walla Walla failed for the second time in a row to go undefeated the entire period between rankings. This go round, Yakima Valley was the culprit, pulling off a 56-50 [box] home victory over the Warriors, who now hold a very slim lead in the East over No. 8 Columbia Basin. The best offensive team in a largely defensive conference, Walla Walla still doesn't quite have the scoring numbers that some of the flashy Southern Region teams have, but they have proven that they may have one of the best defenses in the league. Example? Since the start of the regular season, the Warriors haven't allowed more than 56 points in a contest.

                                                                                                                         



4. Centralia (19-4, 12-1 West)
No. 4 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 4, No. 4 coaches

Centralia has won four in a row following their blowout loss to Lower Columbia, and Kristen Schoenherr is back on the court. Schoenherr went just 2-8 from the field for eight points in her return, but things have picked back up since then, and Centralia has returned to blowing their opponents out by 32 (Pierce), 20 (Tacoma) and 41 (Greys Harbor). However good the Blazers have looked, we still have yet to see how Centralia will fare outside of the Western Region, where  they have found hard times in the past. The tournament will answer many of those questions, but by that point, it's too late.

                                                                                                                         

5. Chemeketa (14-9, 7-3 South)
No. 6 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 6, No. 8 coaches


Chemeketa has faced some extremely tough competition in the last few weeks. They blew out Umpqua, who was incredible to start the season, and then ran into a buzz saw at Clackamas and lost by nearly 30 points. That's when things turned in Chemeketa's favor. Down two games to Lane, it seemed as though Chemeketa would have to resign themselves to the third seed in the South, simply buried under two lights-out teams. At least, that was until the Storm went out and upset No.  2 Lane and crept to within just one game of the Titans. The window is still open for Chemeketa, as Lane will play No. 1 Clackamas again, and Chemeketa faces the bottom four teams in the region to finish the season.

                                                                                                                         


6. Skagit Valley (15-7, 8-2 North)
No. 5 Coaches
Previous ranking: NR, NR coaches

A bubble team for last week's rankings, Skagit Valley stepped up with a big 3-0 week, knocking off then No. 5 Whatcom, as well as racing past Edmonds and beating out Peninsula, adding to their streak of seven consecutive wins. A streak like that makes them easily the hottest team from the Northern Region, and as there are three squads tied at the top of the North, momentum is going to be... well... monumental. SVC will face one of the three tied teams before the season is over, a home game against Bellevue, whom they have defeated once this season already.


                                                                                                                         

7. Whatcom (14-7, 8-2 North)
No. 8 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 5, No. 7 coaches

As was mentioned in SVC's bio, Whatcom is one of three teams tied at 8-2 for first place in the Northern Region. It was a loss to surging Skagit Valley that dropped them in to such a tie, a game that was somewhat of an oddity because Whatcom actually used more players than their opponent. For much of the season, Whatcom's tiny roster has been enough to do the trick, but coming down the final stretch, it will be interesting to see whether their relative lack of depth will start to truely hinder them. One thing for sure, that will make the tournament incredibly rough for that starting five. 

                                                                                                                         

8. Columbia Basin (12-11, 8-3 East)
No. 7 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 7, No. 5 coaches

After a regular season that started so brightly, Columbia Basin has had a tough few weeks, going 2-2 with losses to No. 3 Walla Walla and Wenatchee Valley. The loss  to WWCC is understandable, as the Warriors are undoubtedly the best team in the East. The slip up with WVC is fairly confusing. The numbers all add up. 56% from the free throw line and 33% from the field won't get you far, and neither will being badly out boarded. That's not the weird part. The strange thing is where it had come from. A week removed from playing Walla Walla so close, Columbia Basin falls to a team that is 3-8 in region?


                                                                                                                         

Edmonds men lose ground, stay No. 1




NWAACC Men's Basketball

With a double-digit loss to Whatcom, Edmonds lost even more ground to Pierce and Big Bend this week, but for now that seems to be more of a fluke than a flaw. The top seeds from the North, East and West are able to more or less stand out ahead of their compatriots, but the Southern Region is still somewhat up for grabs. SW Oregon and Chemeketa will play once more in a game that could very well decide the Southern Region title in the regular season finale. 

Be sure to check back in a week's time for Full Court Press, a bi-weekly roundup of NWAACC basketball action to fill in the gaps. Next week will give an update on the playoff race in each region, as well as detail some of the biggest match ups. Coaches rankings are in italics under each team's record. If you have a question or a comment feel free to leave it below, respond via twitter or send me an email

Full Court Press: Dark Horse Week is now live online! Do you have a dark horse prediction?

                                                                                                                         

1. Edmonds (19-3, 9-1 North)
No. 3 coaches
Previous ranking: No. 1, No. 1 coaches

While Edmonds tripped up in a game against then No. 7 Whatcom for their first loss in region play, that doesn't do much to dampen the season they have had so far. They are the best in the league at taking care of the ball, averaging just 12.15 turnovers a game. That, combined with their 2nd best shooting percentage at 49% and the offensive brilliance of forward Shaq McKissic, makes them an incredibly tough contest. With just four more games remaining and a one game lead on Whatcom, Edmonds will most likely stay on top and win the North's No. 1 seed in the upcoming tournament.

                                                                                                                         


2. Big Bend (21-4, 10-1 East)
No. 1 coaches
Previous ranking: No. 4, No. 4 coaches


Big Bend's Jan. 30 victory over a resurgent Yakima Valley did more than slow a potential challenger. It widened the gap, and with three more wins in the last two weeks, the Runnin' Viks have now clinched the region championship. They have won their last ten contests, and 13 of their last 14 games. One question coming in to the season might have been how to replace the scoring and heroics of last year's first-team all-tournament star Blake Skidmore. Now, it seems as though Big Bend has a new leader in freshman guard Brendan Westendorf, who is the only player in the league to average at least 20 points, five assists and seven rebounds, with just over two steals a game thrown in for good measure. 

                                                                                                                         

3. Pierce (20-4, 17-1 West)
No. 2 coaches
Previous ranking: No. 8, No. 5 coaches

Just one more win guarantees the Raiders a Western Region title, helped along by their 78-72 victory [box] over No. 6 Tacoma on February 2nd. Tyrell Lewis, the league leader in steals with 88, lit up the scoreboard for 29 points and 17 rebounds in that game, continuong a streak that has now reached seven games in which Lewis has scored 16 points or more. Lewis' total was also just one point shy of his season high of 30, and he set a new season high in rebounds. Lewis isn't the only star, however. Pierce still holds the highest shooting percentage in the league, and takes very, very few three pointers, putting a majority of their scoring up close and personal.

                                                                                                                        




4. Whatcom (16-6, 8-2 North)
No. 4 coaches
Previous ranking: No. 7, NR coaches

If you combine the total point differential in Whatcom's two northern region losses, you don't end up with much: just six points. That's why it shouldn't be much of a surprise that the team who held their own with No. 1 Edmonds on the road would be able to take them back home and hand them their first loss of the regular season. Whatcom's 90-80 triumph [box] also served to bring the Orca's just that much closer to Edmonds in the standings, meaning that should Whatcom win out, they still have a chance of catching Edmonds for the top seed. 
                                                                                                                         


5. Chemeketa (15-6, 8-2 South)
No. 5 coaches
Previous ranking: NR, NR coaches

Chemeketa appears to be somewhat back on form since their little rough patch a few weeks back. A beatdown of Umpqua, a survival against a feisty Clackamas team, and a big win over No. 8 Lane were enough to give Chemeketa a two game cushion over Lane for the top seed in the Southern Region, which is still largely up for grabs. Looking ahead, Chemeketa will have to play two teams, Mt. Hood and No. 7 SW Oregon, that are desperately fighting for playoff positioning, meaning that if the Storm get caught sleeping, they could easily see their boat rocked.

                                                                                                                         


6. Tacoma (16-7, 9-3 West)
No. 6 coaches
Previous ranking: No. 4, No. 5 coaches

A close loss to one of the league's absolute best on the road could go either way. One, a game like that can be somewhat of a measuring stick and a learning experience. That, or a devastating loss can get inside the head of a team, and they trip up again. Fortunately for the Titans, it seems as though they have chosen the former after their six point loss to No. 3 Pierce. They started by blowing out Grays Harbor by 18, then Centralia (15-9, 9-4 West) by nine, and finished off their week by absolutely demolishing Highline 90-51 [box] in their highest scoring affair of the season.

                                                                                                                         

7. SW Oregon (12-10, 7-3 South)
NR coaches
Previous ranking: No. 8, NR coaches

SW Oregon's next game will be a crucial one. The 15 point loss to Clackamas (12-12, 4-6 South) with their leading scorer off the court dropped them out of a tie for first place in the Southern Region, and they sit just one game ahead of Lane with four games remaining. A win in that match up would give SW Oregon enough of a cushion that it would almost guarantee the Lakers the 2nd seed in the South, and would give them a chance to catch Chemeketa with a win in the season finale.


                                                                                                                         

8. Lane (18-6, 6-4 South)
No, 8 coaches
Previous ranking: No. 5, No. 4 coaches

Lane, after starting off the season so strong, has found themselves in a bit of a tailspin as of late. They have lost three of their last five, and four of their last eight, dropping them into third place in the South, just one game above Mt. Hood and Portland and two games above Clackamas. The Titans will have to play both Portland and Clackamas once more, in addition to facing SW Oregon. Their road going forward will be extremely tough, as all but one of their opponents has something to fight for.