Lane’s men’s basketball team kept themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot with a thrilling 79-76 win over the Umpqua Community College Riverhawks on Feb. 11.
Titan freshman Amel Merriweather hit two clutch free throws that gave the Titans a three point cushion. They managed to defend against the Riverhawks final three-point attempt to hold on for the win.
“First half (the Riverhawks) shot the lights out,” Lane Coach Bruce Chavka said. “I think they shot over 50 percent from the three-point line and that killed us in the first half.” Umpqua shot 7-of-14 from 3-point range. “Second half we really played defense,” Chavka said. “We played more man to man, post-to-zone defense, and our effort level was so much better.”
Playing man to man was essential to their success, with Umpqua scoring 16 fewer points than they did in the first half of the game.
“The turning point was definitely defensively.” Freshman forward Tre Clark said. “We weren’t playing good defense the first half… In the second half, defensively, we definitely stepped up a notch and dug in.”
Clark led all scorers with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore forward Dale Baker added 20 points and 9 rebounds for the night. “Tre is our leading rebounder and a good show of leadership for us,” Chavka said.
Clark credited Lane freshman guard Duce Namazi for the Titans’ second half resilience. “(Namazi) really picked it up for us, he really got us going defensively,” Clark said. “He sparked us for that win.”
Storming back from a 14-point deficit in the second half, the Titans locked down on defense and held Umpqua’s offense to 30 second-half points. With 3 minutes remaining, the score was tied 71- 71, and the two teams traded leads five times in that span.
The Titans are 13-10 overall and 5-4 in the NorthWest Athletic Conference Southern Region play. Winning this game allowed them to continue their chance at playing in the NWAC tournament. They will have to earn one of the top four spots in the region, out of eight teams total to play in the tournament.
“We needed this win like a glass of water after being in the desert for two days,” Chavka said. “If we didn’t get this one we were really digging ourselves a hole; we are now tied for third in our region.”