Titans all set for NWAC tourney

03/04/2016 14:18

By Jarrid Denney

For The Register-Guard

It isn’t the perfect season it wanted, but Lane Community College still has plenty to play for as the Titans prepare to play Everett this weekend in the Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament opening round.

The Titans, who finished the regular season with a 28-1 record, were crowned Southern Region champions and have unquestionably been the top team in the conference all year. They were unanimously voted No. 1 in the most recent NWAC coaches poll on March 3 and will host the Trojans at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Lane started the year 25-0, a record that marked the best start in program history, and from the get-go the Titans had their eyes set on an even greater goal: the first undefeated season in conference history.

That dream was dashed when they suffered a 98-83 home loss to Umpqua on Feb. 17. While many teams might have been glad to ditch the pressure that comes with chasing a perfect season, Lane coach Greg Sheley said the Titans felt no such sense of relief following their lone loss.

“I’m not a big fan of saying you can learn a lot from a loss, because I think you can learn just as much from a tough victory,” Sheley said. “I think a loss definitely helped us refocus and kind of remember what it’s like to lose. They hadn’t felt that since the last game of last year.”

Although they went nearly three months without losing a game, he said the team maintained its competitive edge throughout the season and will now attempt to win a fifth NWAC title, beginning with a game against Everett (14-14), the fourth-place team from the Northern Region.

The Lane men are also in the midst of one of the top seasons in program history. The Titans reached as high as fifth place in the NWAC coaches poll this year and will travel to Highline Community College in Des Moines, Wash., for their opening playoff matchup at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Lane began the season on a hot streak of its own, going 11-1 before back-to-back losses to Clark and Clackamas.

The Titans recovered to win their next five games and rounded out the regular season with a 23-6 record, the best in coach Bruce Chavka’s 10 years at Lane.

As part of a new NWAC tournament format, the top two seeds in each of the four conference regions will host opening round matchups, with the final eight teams advancing to the semifinals being held at Everett (Wash.) Community College.

In the past, all 16 teams on both the men and women’s sides played the entire tournament at one site.

The new format offers an advantage to the Lane women, who are consistently one of the best home teams in the NWAC.

In the case of the Lane men, who finished third in the Southern Region, the new format has them packing their bags for a five-hour trip to face 20-9 Highline.

The Titans were 10-2 on the road this year, and Chavka believes the long road trip may actually be an advantage.

“We play better on the road than we do at home,” Chavka said. “I’ve tried to put my finger on it and I’m not quite sure why that is. … On the road when it’s us against the world they really come together as a team.”