Lucero three caps Titans’ title surge
KENNEWICK, Wash. — With one last chance to end the game in regulation, Renee Lucero found herself with the ball in her hands and room to shoot.
The freshman delivered.
Lucero drained a tie-breaking three-pointer with four seconds left in regulation and Lane held on to defeat Clackamas 51-49 in the championship game of the NWAACC women’s basketball tournament Tuesday night at the Toyota Center.
The title is the Titans’ fourth in nine seasons, following championships in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
Lane (30-2) also secured its third 30-win season since 2005.
“This feels so awesome,” Lane coach Greg Sheley said. “We haven’t had too many wins like that. What an adrenaline rush.”
Lucero’s three-pointer capped a dramatic finish for the Titans, who trailed 48-42 with just over two minutes to play when they went on a 9-0 run sparked by clutch defense and, finally, some dead-eye shooting.
Megan Shields scored first, to make it 48-44 with 2:06 left, then Lucero scored off a turnover with 1:12 remaining to make it a one-basket game.
Kersey Wilcox followed with a steal at midcourt and finished at the other end tie the score at 48-48 with 41 seconds left.
Next it was Simone Thompson’s turn, getting a steal under the Cougars’ basket with 23 seconds left to set up the Titans’ final possession and Lucero’s clutch shot.
“The shot was flush,” Sheley said. “I could see it was right on line, then the net just popped. It was the best feeling.”
The Cougars added one last point on a free throw with four seconds left, but otherwise went scoreless after a three-pointer by Sade Elliot with 3:09 to play.
Lucero finished with 15 points, Wilcox scored 13 and Shields had seven points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.
Jenny Johnson scored 10 to pace the Cougars (26-5).
Lane shot just 33 percent from the floor and didn’t get anywhere near its NWAACC-leading 83.3-point scoring average, and in fact, was held to a season-low in points by 12.
The Cougars, who were averaging 79.5 points, were no better. They shot just 22 percent and needed nine three-pointers to keep it close, though no surprise there from the team that made an NWAACC-leading 286 three-pointers this season.
But Tuesday’s game was the fourth of the season between the two South Region rivals, and the familiarity showed.
“We’ve played those guys so much over the year, they knew what we were doing and we knew what they were doing,” said Sheley, whose team went 3-1 against the Cougars this season yet still finished one game behind them in the South Region standings.
Lane led 26-21 at halftime and went up 29-21 in the opening minute of the second half. But the Titans made just one field goal over the next seven minutes, and by the time Wilcox snapped their 0-for-8 shooting streak, Clackamas had taken a 37-31 lead.
The lead was still six points when the Titans started their rally.
“Kids made some plays down the stretch,” Sheley said. “It was absolutely amazing.”
FROM THE EUGENE REGISTER GUARD WEBSITE (http://www.registerguard.com)