The Lane women’s basketball team isn’t often a darkhorse come tournament time.
With four final four appearances and two Northwest Athletic Conference titles in the past six years, the Titans have been one of the most dominant teams in the conference, and have consistently been the top team in their region.
However, after locking up second place in the NWAC Southern Region with a 78-49 win against Chemeketa Community College on Feb. 28, the Titans are flying under the radar as the regular season comes to a close.
“I like being the favorite coming in, but this is definitely a new role for us and I think we’re embracing it,” Lane head coach Greg Sheley said. “A lot of people are probably a little nervous about playing us right now.”
Hopes were high for Lane to top last year’s fourth place tournament finish, but two of the Titans’ top returning guards suffered season-ending injuries before the season began and a third chose to redshirt, leaving sophomore forward Marikah Wright as the only returning starter from last year’s team.
Despite unfortunate injuries and the transition to an almost entirely new starting lineup, Sheley’s Titans have navigated through the ultra-competitive NWAC South Region and managed to finish with a 22-7 record — good enough for second in the region.
“I wouldn’t say we’re surprised, because that’s the expectation that we have and that our kids have,” Sheley said. “I would say that other people outside of the program definitely would be surprised at our success, just because of who we are missing.”
Last year, the Titans tore through the conference with an explosive offensive attack that leaned heavily on three-point shooting and dribble-drive penetration. That team led the NWAC in scoring and finished fourth at the NWAC tournament.
This year’s squad has been nearly as successful, albeit with an entirely different, less flashy offensive approach.
Lane has taken 400 less three-point shots than they did last year, and in turn have found a dominant post presence in freshman center Jordan Kimbrough.
Kimbrough is fifth in the conference in scoring at 18.03 points per-game and second in rebounding at 10.90 per-game. She leads the Titans in nearly every offensive category and has shot an efficient 53 percent from the field.
She has been supported by sophomores Jacia Jointer and Carmen Wright, two guards who have stepped up to solidify the Titans’ backcourt after playing reserve roles on last year’s team.
Marikah Wright is second in scoring for the Titans with 11.28 points per-game, and freshman forward Bre DuBois has been consistent, leading them in minutes and pulling down 7.21 rebounds per game.
Lane will now prepare to face Skagit Valley Community College, who finished the regular season at 19-11, good for third in the NWAC North Region.
The Titans have survived what Sheley called the most injury-filled season he has ever experienced and now have a favorable first round matchup.
“We definitely aren’t as talented of a team as we were last year,” Sheley said. “But we’re heading into the tournament with a little bit of momentum and a confidence boost … it’s really exciting in that sense.”