Loss to Walla Walla dashes hopes for championship

03/11/2010 12:34

Titan Women take fourth in NWAACC tournament

Mike Partee

Issue date: 3/11/10 Section: Sports
 
Lynette Minthorn,
                        Theresa Brown, Makenzie Ficek, Susan Smith,  and Sarah Brolsma Whitfield
                        sit on the sidelines during the NWAACC tournament. The Titans traveled
                        to Kennewick, Wash. anticipating to win their second consecutive
                        championship title, but fell short during the game against Walla Walla.
Media Credit: Javier Magallanes
Lynette Minthorn, Theresa Brown, Makenzie Ficek, Susan Smith, and Sarah Brolsma Whitfield sit on the sidelines during the NWAACC tournament. The Titans traveled to Kennewick, Wash. anticipating to win their second consecutive championship title, but fell short during the game against Walla Walla.
[Click to enlarge]
In the NWAACC tournament
                        game one, Sarah Brolsma Whitfield shows perfect form as she lets fly
                        for three.
Media Credit: Javier Magallanes
In the NWAACC tournament game one, Sarah Brolsma Whitfield shows perfect form as she lets fly for three.
[Click to enlarge]
MaKenzie Ficek dominated
                        the scoreboard with 19 points scored in the game two win over the SVCC
                        Cardinals.
Media Credit: Javier Magallanes
MaKenzie Ficek dominated the scoreboard with 19 points scored in the game two win over the SVCC Cardinals.
[Click to enlarge]
Media Credit: Javier Magallanes
[Click to enlarge]
Media Credit: Javier Magallanes
[Click to enlarge]

The Titan women barely missed the opportunity to take home their second consecutive NWAACC title when they lost to Walla Walla during the third game of the tournament in Kennewick, Wash. The team got two victories under their belt before the loss, triumphing over Skagit Valley and Spokane. The team went 24-4 in the regular season, with their 76-game home winning streak intact going into the regional tournament.

A foul-heavy game against Spokane

The Titans strode onto the battlefield of free throws to face the mighty Sasquatch in their first NWAACC tournament game at the Toyota Center. The Titans held on to a lead gained late in the first half and won 51-37.

"It was a tough game. Both teams played very tight and were afraid to make mistakes with what was at stake," head coach Greg Sheley said. "Waiting until 10:30 p.m. to play didn't help either. In the end we put it together and pulled a win.

The Sasquatch took control of the opening tip-off and quickly established a dominant stride in the game as sophomore guard Eleaya Schuerch of Spokane put the first points on the board with a three pointer.

Sophomore forward Theresa Brown came in close for a shot, missed and drew a foul. She went two for two at the line to put the first points on the board for the Titans.

Coach Greg Sheley called a timeout to talk to his team four minutes into the game. LCC trailed the Sasquatch 7-2.

Sarah Brolsma Whitfield came out of the timeout and scored three for the Titans. The sophomore guard went eight for eight at the free throw line and scored 16 points in the game.

Sophomore forward Tiffany Rich was fouled on a missed shot and went two for two at the line to tie the game early on. Freshman forward Kristen Huff sunk two off the rebound and the Titans took the lead for the first time in the game 9-7.

A clever play by freshman guard MaKenzie Ficek placed the ball back in Huff's capable hands and Huff drew a foul putting her back at the line. Huff shot one for two to increase the lead and then got fouled on a defensive rebound to go to the line yet again where she repeated a one for two.

Rich took another turn at the free throw line and delivered one for two.

"This was an ugly game," assistant coach Kevin Grumbley said. "Marred by fouls and sloppy play, but we found a way to win and advance to the quarterfinals."

With six minutes left in the first half, sophomore forward Meghan Eisenmann of the Sasquatch went two for two at the line and tied the score up for the length of time it took Brolsma Whitfield to run down the court and put two in to regain the lead.

Huff drew another foul and sunk a double.

Not to be outdone by her teammate, freshman point guard Susan Smith delivered two for two after drawing the foul from the aggressive Sasquatch women.

The penalty filled first half ended with a score of 27-21

The underdog Sasquatch team entered the court in the second half and kept the Titans nearly scoreless in the early minutes until Brolsma Whitfield drew a foul and shot a double at the line.

With just over five minutes left to go in the game, LCC increased the lead to nine points.

With four fouls against her, Brown re-entered the game and scored one for two at the line giving LCC the first 10 point lead of the game.

LCC was by no means innocent as the foul calls against them mounted up as well. Twenty-five personal fouls were called against the Titans. Brown and Rich both reached five personal fouls and were removed from play.

Ficek scores threes to clinch victory over Skagit Valley

Game two started with both teams pouring on the heat and matching each other in intensity. The Skagit Valley Cardinals exhibited the same aggressive up-tempo play style that the Titans have been so successful at applying.

Neither team could gain a clear advantage as the first half continued its inevitable march to the half-time buzzer. With less than 10 minutes to go in the first half, the Titans lead by a score of 23-21.

"I think that everyone came out and played their hearts out," freshman forward Kaitlyn Kronberger said. "We had really great energy on and off the court and I think that's what helped get us through some of the rough spots of the games."

The Cardinal team never showed any hint of giving up, and with just over five minutes left in the first half SVCC tied the score. The Titans started a scoring drive and both teams fought back and forth. The half ended 39-33 in the Titans favor.

The second half renewed the intensity as both teams struggled for dominance and the coveted spot in the final four. The Cardinals and the Titans were showing signs of stress but the LCC women dug deep for that winning spark. Less than 10 minutes left and Ficek loaded the scoreboard with three-pointers and prison break layups.

Brown seemed to dance as she jumped and spun to let fly with a perfect shot that touched nothing but net and increased the lead over the Cardinals.

LCC continued to outpace SVCC and with eight and a half minutes remaining on the clock the Titans led 67-53.

"I felt we played pretty well," Grumbley said. "We took care of the ball and pulled away at the end."

Ficek continued to pour points into the Titans side of the scoreboard and was the game leader with 18 points scored for LCC. There was just over three minutes left in the game when Brown shot one for two from the free throw line to increase the lead to 20.

The Cardinals struggled to close the gap but inevitably ran out of time and the game ended with a second victory for the Titans 84-67.

"We played much better and got a nice win to put us in our seventh consecutive semi-final game," Sheley said.

Game 3 decided in last five minutes of play

The Titans wasted no time after the tipoff as sophomore forward Lynette Minthorn tipped to freshman point guard Susan Smith who made a fast pass to Brolsma Whitfield who put it up for two. Walla Walla moved the ball down the court where the Titans stole it away and Minthorn added two more to the LCC side of the scoreboard. The Warriors quickly countered and caught back up to the Titans. Minthorn got fouled and shot one for two at the line.

Once the initial flurry wore off, both teams settled into a grim battle of determination, looking incredible defensively and the lead changed sides several times.

A couple of missed shots early on hurt the Titans score wise as Layne Tucker of the Warriors delivered telling damage from inside as well as outside the three point line and earned WWCC the lead.

Theresa Brown rallied LCC with her powerful jump shot that kept the score close to the Warriors.

With less than eight minutes left in the first half, Ficek and Minthorn turned on their momentum and not only helped retake the lead, but gave the Titans a five point lead over the indomitable Warriors.

There was just over five minutes to go in the first half when Sheley called a timeout with the Titans ahead 26-21.

Kronberger entered the game and kept the Titans lead safe with two strong defensive rebounds.

The Warriors leapt to the attack and tied up the game with just over a minute to play in the first half. Huff shut down the charge early on and stacked two more points on the LCC scoreboard.

The first half ended with the Titans leading the Warriors 34-32.

A seemingly refreshed and recharged Titans team stormed onto the court to start the second and in less than two minutes of play, put eight points on the board. The warriors only managed two.

WWCC soon recovered its equilibrium and started to close the holes that the Titans had capitalized on.

Ficek recovered a stray ball and thundered down the court and drew a foul to go two for two at the line.

With under 10 minutes left in the game, the Titans defense seemed to be failing as the Warriors recovered three offensive rebounds in one drive with little sign of resistance from LCC.

A busload of supporters from Walla Walla made the journey to support their team and the hum seemed to jumpstart the team.

The Warriors doubled their efforts against LCC and seemed to find a weakness in the as yet impenetrable Titans defense. The Walla Walla crowd was near to frenzied as the Warriors began a charge that staggered the Titans.

"It is really disappointing to go from champions to having no place," Brolsman Whitfield said. "I guess I have to be thankful for winning one championship and making it to the final four two years in a row. Most teams would be lucky to accomplish what Lane has done in the last two years."

Icy dread filled the hearts of the few LCC fans in attendance as the Warriors took the lead with under five minutes left in the game and Brolsma Whitfield got her fourth personal foul.

With 4:25 left in the game and the Warriors lead 62-61. There was a palpable chill in the air as Tiffany Rich drew a foul and went zero for two at the line.

With 3:30, Smith tied it back up with a three point jumper that met no cheers, but only sighs of short lived relief from the nearly silent Titans side of the stands.

But the Warriors scored two to retake the lead and the fans from the city so nice they named it twice roared in appreciation. Susan Smith gained possession of the ball and after getting fouled, went to the free throw line with a chance to tie it up but shot one for two, which left LCC's throat exposed.

Brown came down with a rebound and got the foul to tie the score with one for two at the line. The Warriors seemed to sense the imminent victory and sunk two to retake the lead.

Under a minute left to play and it looked like the Titans road had come to an end as time out was called by Sheley with the Warriors in possession of the ball and the lead.

With 30.1 seconds left on the clock and the score at 69-70, fate favored the Warriors who had possession and 30 seconds on the play clock. LCC needed to get the ball.

Huff caused the defensive foul and the Warriors went zero for two at the line giving LCC possession with under 26 seconds left and only one point down.

Sheley called another timeout with 24.5 seconds remaining and the tension in the air could be cut with a knife.

LCC charged down the court toward eternity. Their goal was close and they had what it took to get the job done.

"It was a very close, and intense contest," Grumbley said. "Two of the NWAACC's best programs were fighting for the chance to play in the championship. We could not come up with key rebounds, or make key free throws down the stretch."

The Titans were in enemy territory and the win was close when a failed screen pass sent the ball out of bounds and the Warriors regained possession. Brown sacrificed herself with a fifth personal foul and the Warriors took advantage at the line with one for two. Only three seconds were left as Smith raced as close as she could, she let fly with one last desperate shot. It missed.

The Titans lost to the Walla Walla Warriors with a final of 69-72.

"We couldn't hold onto a lead but still had an opportunity to win it at the end of the game," Sheley said. "We couldn't execute rebounds or hit free throws the whole game."