Titans’ title streak slips away

02/26/2009 18:22

By Chris Hansen

Posted to Web: Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 11:38PM
Appeared in print: Thursday, Feb 26, 2009, page C4

ROSEBURG — Lane first lost its composure on offense, then its double-digit lead, and when all was said and done, the Titans ultimately lost their chance at a fifth straight league championship.

Not to mention, they never really did find Kristi Fallin.

Despite being up 14 points with just over 13 minutes to play, the second-ranked Lane Community College women’s basketball team fell 86-80 to No. 1 Umpqua in the regular-season finale with the Southern Region title on the line.

It was an uncharacteristic late-game collapse for the Titans (23-5), who lost two league games this season for the first time since going 11-3 in 2004.

“Usually we’re the ones that can execute down the stretch and keep people at bay and finish them off,” Lane coach Greg Sheley said. “Hopefully we learned something today because we’ve got a chance to redeem ourselves.”

Both teams entered the game 12-1 in league play — with Umpqua’s one loss coming against Lane earlier in the season — but the Riverhawks (26-2) escaped with the No. 1 seed heading into the NWAACC tournament, which runs March 5-8 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Wash. Lane will be the No. 2 seed.

“If you had told us in December that we were going to be 12-2 in league, we would’ve jumped at it,” said Sheley, who started the season with five new starters. “We weren’t where we needed to be in December like we normally are. So the kids have made great strides to put themselves in this situation. But when you’re here and you have a chance to win a championship … well, what the heck.”

Sophomore guard Sheena Cole scored 23 for the Titans, including 17 in the first half as Lane jumped out to a 46-38 lead at the break.

An 8-0 run in the second half extended the Titans’ lead to 61-47 with 13:37 to play.

“Being up 14, we just thought we just had to use the clock,” said Lane forward Theresa Brown, who had 16 points before fouling out with 1:47 to play.

But Lane had no answer for Fallin in the second half, as the Umpqua forward scored 18 points in the final 12 minutes and 37 overall on 12-of-22 shooting, including 6-for-11 on three-point attempts.

Her three-pointer at the 11:51 mark capped a 9-0 run on three straight possessions for the Riverhawks, who kept pecking away at Lane’s lead until Suititi Takai scored off a rebound following one of Fallin’s few misses to put Umpqua up 75-73.

Kourtney Parks scored in transition to give the Titans an 80-78 lead with 2:39 left. But Lane got off only one more shot after that — a three at the final buzzer — and turned the ball over on four straight possessions.

Meanwhile, Fallin carried Umpqua. She answered Parks’ basket with a pair of free throws to tie it at 80-80, and then with 1:13 remaining, she curled into the paint and scored on a layup to put the Riverhawks up for good, 82-80.

“I don’t know what it was,” Cole said. “But we gotta look at it like maybe we’ll get another shot at them in a week — and I’d rather win that game.”