The battle for a berth in the Northwest Athletic Association
of Community Colleges’ championship basketball tournament begins today
with East Region play.
Eight schools in the East will vie for four
tournament berths — in each the men’s and women’s tournaments — when
it’s held March 1-4 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.
For the Columbia Basin College men’s and women’s teams, it’s an added feather in their caps to play in the event close to home.
Cheryl Holden’s women’s team, playing in the tournament is an annual
event and has included a few titles. Her CBC teams have won the NWAACC
title three times in the last 10 years (2005, 2008 and 2012).
freshman-laden team last season finished with a 17-13 mark and finished
seventh in the tournament. This year’s team is heavy with experience
CBC men’s coach Rolando Garcia saw his team, decimated by injuries and academic problems, struggle to a 1-23 mark last season.
That could change for Garcia, whose team enters East Region play at Treasure Valley tonight with a 7-5 record already.
The biggest thing for Garcia is having two sophomores who missed last
season, Chiawana grads Justin Smith and Stephen Walter, return.
of them had decided to sit last season for personal reasons,” said
Garcia. “I believe that the maturity and confidence they have both
gained by missing last year has shown through in their ability to lead
our team as captains along with Kyler DeWitt.”
Walter was named
the NWAACC player of the week for the week ending Dec. 30. He was named
MVP of the Big Bend Holiday Tournament, averaging almost 15 points, 4
rebounds and 3 assists as the Hawks went 3-0 to win the tournament.
Walter’s teammate, Andrew Reddout (Granger), joined him on the all-tournament team.
Mid-Columbians on the roster are 6-8 freshman forward Jordan En’Wezoh
(Kamiakin), sophomore guard DeWitt (Chiawana), and freshman forward
Carter Chase (Connell).
Garcia has five players averaging in double figures right now.
any given night, any player can give us 20 to 30 points in a game,”
said Garcia. “They compete for 40 minutes and though we haven’t always
come out on top this preseason, they did give it their all. Hopefully
they have learned from their mistakes.”
The biggest problem for the Hawks may be on the inside.
we’re undersized when it comes to post play,” said Garcia. “We lost our
post recruits who had verbally committed to us and we had to revamp our
strategy this year to play an uptempo style of play.”
CBC’s women are ranked second in the latest coaches poll, carrying a 10-3 record heading into East Region play.
Holden carries 16 on her roster, so she’s throwing not only talent out on the court, but depth too.
“We’re rotating about 10 players, sometimes 11,” said Holden, who calls this her deepest team in her time at CBC.
So obviously, experience and depth will be this team’s strengths.
think those freshmen, they battled all last year,” Holden said.
“They’ve grown up a lot. Now add the freshmen who are quality players.”
The Hawks had three players last season who received NWAACC honors, and all three of them return.
DePew (Bainbridge Island) and Sierra Higheagle (Clarkston) were
second-team all-region, while Alicia Jones (Skyline, Idaho) was an
Holden also has a strong core of players
from this region: Alejandra Cuevas (Tri-Cities Prep), Lacie French
(Prosser), Sydney Mercer (Prosser) and Courtney Nelson (Kamiakin).
French is shooting a sizzling 53 percent from the floor (30 for 56).
Shannon Bland (Ellensburg) leads the team in assists (5.31) and steals
(3.38). Higheagle leads the team in scoring at 11.4 points, while Nelson
If there is one weakness right now, it’s rebounding consistency.
“We’ll play tough defense for 27 seconds, then give up an offensive rebound,” she said.
Still, Holden really likes this team.
think one thing is that we have a team that has a legitimate shot at
winning the East Region,” Holden said. “Then whatever happens at the
NWAACC tournament happens.”
Published with permission of the Tri-City Herald. Additional news stories can be accessed online at the Tri-City Herald.
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