When put on the spot, Ashley Smith admitted she had no idea where she was or even what grade she was in during December of 2002 when Lane Community College last lost at home.
“I don’t know,” Smith said after a short pause. “It’s been awhile.”
Almost half her life, in fact.
But Smith, who turns 20 at the end of the month, should have no problem recalling where she was when the Titans extended their home winning streak to 83 with a 93-75 women’s basketball victory against Umpqua Community College Wednesday night in front of a head-count crowd of 177.
Because Smith, a 6-foot-1 sophomore post out of Willamette High School, was everywhere. She was diving on loose balls, grabbing rebounds, shooting three-pointers, stepping into passing lanes, driving to the basket. And then late in the game, she kept Lane securely in the lead from the free-throw line, making 10-of-11 foul shots in the final 7:49.
Smith finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, two steals and two assists and the relief of knowing Lane’s nine-season-long win streak remains intact for another week.
“The streak definitely puts a lot more pressure on you,” said Smith, who leads the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges in scoring at 25.1 points per game. “Some people play better with pressure, like me. It helps me perform and I think our team knows that. All of us know that we can not lose at home, we refuse, and we all do whatever it takes to protect our court.”
That certainly was the case for Lane (14-2, 4-0 South Region) on Wednesday. Post Kristen Huff scored the first 12 points of the game for Lane and finished with 16 on 6-for-6 shooting. Reserve guard Brittany May had 16 points and went 5-for-5 on three-pointers, and Victoria Nnoli also came off the bench to record 12 points and 12 rebounds.
The majority of players on the Titans roster weren’t even in middle school when Lane lost 74-67 to Chemeketa Community College on Dec. 6, 2002. Two weeks later, they beat Grays Harbor 75-48 and haven’t lost at home since.
“I don’t know how the kids do it,” said Lane coach Greg Sheley, in his 12th season. “I try to take the pressure off the kids and try keep them focused on the task at hand, as far as you have to protect your home court if you want to win a league title.”
It hasn’t been easy.
“It’s really stressful to play at home and all of us get nervous,” said guard MaKenzie Ficek, who like Huff, went to North Eugene High School. “But it’s a lot more fun because we also know we have an advantage. Lots of people are scared to play us here because we haven’t lost a game since 2002. Other teams come in ready to come out and get us.”
Like Umpqua (11-5, 2-2) on Wednesday. The Titans’ South Region rival from Roseburg gamely battled in the first half, coming from 11 back late in the first when Smith and Huff were both benched for the final seven minutes because of foul trouble.
A three-pointer by Chelsey Christiensen — the seventh of the first half for the Riverhawks — with 18 seconds left put the Titans in a 42-41 hole at the break. Sheley couldn’t put an exact number on it, but the number of times Lane trailed at halftime during its winning streak is in low single digits.
“I don’t think there was a panic (at halftime), but there was a little bit of frustration,” Sheley said.
Huff put Lane up 46-44 early in the second half with a score inside and then the Titans outscored Umpqua 23-9 down the stretch to win comfortably.
“Hopefully, tonight gave the kids a lot of confidence,” Sheley said. “We still got a couple more good games ahead of us, so we’ll see where it goes.”