Titans take first step to title
By Jarrid Denney | For The Register-Guard
Lane hasn’t lost a women’s basketball game since January, and the Titans hope their recent return of form carries all the way through March as they get set for the postseason.
The Titans (22-6, 14-2) will begin the pursuit of their seventh regional women’s basketball title on Thursday at the Northwest Athletic Conference tournament in Everett, Wash. Lane, which is the No. 2 seed in its region behind Umpqua, will face Skagit Valley at 10 p.m.
To simulate the late tipoff, Lane coach Greg Sheley ran his team through night practices all week. He knows the Titans will have their hands full with a Skagit Valley team that returns three starters, when the Fighting Cardinals reached the NWAC semifinals.
Skagit Valley finished third in the North Region with an 8-4 record, though the Fighting Cardinals finished 13-14 overall.
“I’ve been trying to figure out why they didn’t have as successful of a season as most people expected them to,” Sheley said. “They might have had some injuries, but once they got into their league they played really well. They ended up knocking off some people, so we’re not looking past them at all.”
After a back-and-forth battle throughout the season with No. 1 overall seed Umpqua (28-1, 15-1), the Titans finished second in the Southern Region and enter the tournament as the second-highest scoring team in the NWAC.
Lane is led by sophomores Sarah Hall and Rachel Fielder, each of whom earned first team all-region honors. Hall, a Sheldon High graduate who is dual enrolled at the University of Oregon, averages 14.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for the Titans.
“Hall has played really, really well this year,” Sheley said. “Her numbers are down a little bit just because she hasn’t had to play as many minutes as she had to play last year. But she’s really finished strong. She’s been playing well and the team’s been playing well, and that’s no coincidence.”
Freshman guard Taeli Carrillo averages 15.5 points per game to lead the Titans and also leads the conference in three-pointers per game. Carrillo and sophomore guard Amber Lease each earned second team all-region honors.
Sheley has featured up to 10 players in Lane’s rotation this season and believes depth will be one of Lane’s greatest assets during the tournament.
“There’s been years where we’ve only rotated seven,” Sheley said. “So being able to go eight or nine deep this time really helped us stay fresh throughout the year, I think.”