Lane women turn it up to 11

02/26/2012 08:53

Smothering defense forces 25 turnovers as Lane tunes up for NWAACC tournament

The win streak reached 11 games Saturday night for the Lane Community College women’s basketball team.

The second-ranked Titans won’t be completely satisfied, however, until they make it 15 straight.

Behind 15 points from Seqoyia Tillman, 14 from Danielle Schmidt and 10 points and nine rebounds from Reed Levings, Lane easily dispatched visiting Portland, 97-57, in the regular-season finale.

The Titans, who have just one sophomore and 13 freshmen on the roster, locked up their first South Region title since 2008 last Wednesday and improved to 23-4 overall and 13-1 in league following Saturday’s win. Their last loss was to South Region-rival Chemeketa at home on Jan. 14.

“If you would’ve told me in October that this was going to be our record and that we were going to win the South Region, I would’ve said ‘No way,’” Lane coach Greg Sheley said. “Not that I didn’t think these kids were capable, but I’ve never had only one returning sophomore. They’ve really, really bought in. They’ve been an amazing team.”

Next up for the Titans is the Northwest Athletic Association of Community College’s 16-team championship tournament at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Wash., March 3-6.

Lane will open its 11th straight tournament appearance as one of four No. 1 seeds and will play Whatcom Community College out of Bellingham, Wash., in the first round next Saturday at 4 p.m. Whatcom is the fourth seed out of the North Region.

Lane has won three NWAACC championships and played in four championship games in Sheley’s 13 seasons at the school. But the Titans’ last title came in 2009, which was also their last appearance.

The 11-game winning streak has given the young team confidence heading into the postseason.

“This momentum we have is huge,” said Levings, the lone sophomore. “From the minute we walked onto the court for the first time everyone doubted us. This shows us we can do this.”

It’ll take four more wins at the tournament to claim a fourth title.

“It’s strange,” Sheley said, “we’ve had a lot of momentum going into the tournament with very experienced teams and have placed well but not won the whole thing. So it’ll be interesting. These guys have started to really believe what we tell them.”

Defense has been the key to keeping the streak going, Sheley said, and on Saturday, Portland committed 25 turnovers — 15 of which were steals —that the Titans turned into 30 points.

“It’s the best part of our game right now,” Sheley said. “I’m really pleased with that. Our half-court execution on offense will have to get better for the tournament, but our defense is allowing us to get out and get some transition baskets. … Our defense will hopefully keep us in any game.”

If it does, the win streak will keep on growing.