For the second season in a row, the Lane women’s basketball team will finish the regular season as runner-ups in the NWAACC South Region.
Although they had a chance to finish tied for first with the Umpqua Community College Riverhawks, the Titans’ hopes of a regional championship were dashed after a 64-63 loss to the Chemeketa Community College Storm on Dec. 22.
Lane Head Coach Greg Sheley knows better than anyone that a regional championship isn’t necessary to win an NWAACC championship; his team was crowned champions last season despite finishing second in the South Region.
“Winning the region doesn’t mean anything for the tournament other than the fact that you’re able to say that you’re a champion,” Sheley said. “But we’ve won the tournament as a two-seed a couple of times.”
With a successful regular season behind them, the Titans, 22-6 overall, now have their eyes set on their first-round matchup with Highline Community College on March 1 in Kennewick, Wash.
They enter the tournament having won three of their last five games, and will face a Highline team that finished third in the NWAACC West Region with a 19-9 record. The Titans have already faced the Thunderbirds three times this season, and have beaten them twice.
“There is a little animosity between the teams already. Last time we played them there was a little frustration between both teams,” Sheley said. “So I think this is going to be a very interesting first game.”
The Thunderbirds average 67.1 points per-game, and are led by a duo of 5’10” guards in Victoria Elleby and Jada Piper. Each averages about 14 points per game.
Lane will be without starting sophomore guard Tori Mahaffie for the entire tournament. Mahaffie suffered a season ending leg injury when she landed awkwardly after jumping for a rebound in the Titans’ Feb. 17 victory over Mount Hood Community College.
Although she doesn’t yet know the exact diagnosis of the injury because the swelling in her knee is too severe to perform an MRI, Mahaffie said she believes it is a torn ACL.
“The first couple of days it was really hard to deal with,” Mahaffie said. “But I’ve kind of come to grips with it, and I’ve realized that I have to be here for the team still. So I can’t really mope around too much.”
Mahaffie is the Titans’ second-leading rebounder and fourth-leading scorer, and has been one of the Titans’ top defensive players this season. She leads the team in both steals and blocks.
She was also a contributing player on last season’s championship team, and has filled a leadership role for this season’s Titans team which features nine freshman.
“I’m just continuing to encourage them and help them out, especially with this crazy tournament that’s coming up,” Mahaffie said.