Tourney quest off to rough start

01/06/2009 21:04

 

Last season ended with optimism for the Lane Community College men's basketball team.

The Titans had beaten the odds and made the NWAACC tournament one season after posting the worst record in school history.

Though they lost both of their postseason games in 2008, the Titans returned five sophomores and three starters this fall.

"We thought that because we had these kids back, we could get out of the chute fast and get rolling," third-year LCC coach Bruce Chavka said.

"That didn't happen."

Instead, the Titans are 3-9 heading into Wednesday's 7:30 p.m. conference opener against Linn-Benton Community College in Albany.

Lane has struggled to deal with its own high expectations, Chavka said, and injuries to a couple of key players haven't helped either.

"It's frustrating," Chavka admitted. "Right now, our record is pretty flat. We've got a great challenge ahead of us … but I think we're close."

The Titans are led by sophomore Brent Jones, a 6-foot-5 forward out of Westside Christian High School in Lake Oswego.

Jones is averaging close to 17 points and seven rebounds despite battling back and knee injuries that have kept him out of the starting lineup at times.

"He's back now and playing really well," Chavka said. "He's a stud that has some colleges looking at him."

The Titans only recently got starting guard Jake Wiles back. The 6-3 sophomore from Central Catholic in Portland missed all basketball activities in October and November after he sustained a broken nose and concussion during the first week of the fall school session.

"He wasn't very crisp when he first came back (in mid-December)," Chavka said.

Having Jones and Wiles healthy and together should help team chemistry on the floor, Chavka said.

"Individually, we've got some good players but we need to be better as a team," Chavka said. "But you can see it, we just gotta get it going … we better get it going."

Lane went 16-15 and claimed the Southern Region's final playoff seed last season after winning a three-team tiebreaker for fourth place. It was a big step up from 2006-07, when the Titans went 6-23.

"We snuck into that fourth spot last year, but now there's pressure to do better, and the sophomores have felt that pressure a little bit," Chavka said. "But it's not like we're asking them to do a lot, in fact we have a couple of guys who are maybe trying to do too much."

Still, the goal remains to get back to the postseason, which means no worse than another fourth-place finish in their region. After a meeting with the team on Sunday, Chavka is convinced that the team is optimistic that goal can be attained.

"Everyone was upbeat, everyone was excited," Chavka said. "There's a few very good teams in the Southern Region, but we're going to crawl and battle and scrap and do whatever it takes to get into that top four."

LCC MEN'S CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

January: 7, at Linn-Benton, 7:30 p.m. 10, at Mount Hood, 6 p.m. 14, SWOCC, 7:30 p.m. 17, at Chemeketa, 6 p.m. 21, Umpqua, 7:30 p.m. 24, at Clackamas, 6 p.m. 28, at Portland, 7:30 p.m. 31, Mount Hood, 6 p.m.

February: 7, Chemeketa, 6 p.m. 11, Linn-Benton, 7:30 p.m. 14, Clackamas, 6 p.m. 18, at SWOCC, 7:30 p.m. 21, Portland, 5 p.m. 25, at Umpqua, 7:30 p.m.
 

Section: Basketball College
Page: 13C
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