Lane women’s basketball head coach Greg Sheley has repeatedly said that he expects his team to contend for a championship every year.
The Titans fell short of that goal this year, but there was no disappointment on Sheley’s behalf, as his team spent last weekend making one of the more improbable and impressive playoff runs in school history.
With just eight healthy players on their roster, and a sixth place ranking in the final coaches poll, Lane entered the tournament as underdogs for the first time in Sheley’s tenure.
The Titans survived a bizarre weekend that saw many of the conference’s top teams suffer upset losses en route to their seventh Northwest Athletic Conference championship appearance in school history, where they were defeated by the Peninsula Community College Pirates 85-75 on March 10.
“This year was completely different in the sense that only we knew what we were capable of,” Sheley said. “Only we knew that were starting to peak at the right time.”
After defeating Southwestern Oregon, Blue Mountain and Skagit Valley Community Colleges respectively in their first three games, the Titans met the Pirates in the title game, where they finally ran out of fuel.
“With four games in four days, even if you have 12 players, it’s still exhausting,” Sheley said.
The Titans have become accustomed to battling through adversity this season — they lost three key contributors to injury before the season began, and starting guard Carmen Wright suffered a hand injury during the final regular season game that kept her from playing in the tournament.
Sheley was forced to shorten his bench even further during the title game when starting sophomore forward Marikah Wright left the game with an injury early in the first half.
Every healthy Titan player played at least 15 minutes, and Lane was boosted by a 20 point, eight rebound performance off the bench by sophomore guard Jacia Jointer.
Freshman guard Sara Kesling, who averaged only 10 minutes per game during the regular season, chipped in 11 points and six rebounds after replacing Wright.
Lane freshman Jordan Kimbrough, who led the Titans in scoring, rebounding and blocks during the regular season, was dominant for the Titans despite spending most of the game in foul trouble. Kimbrough poured in 18 points to go along with 17 rebounds and four blocks.
The Titans finished the season with a 25-8 overall record, their 13th consecutive tournament appearance and their third straight trip to the final four.
“This one was so unexpected,” Sheley said. “Even though you believe it, and you try to convince your team to believe it, we knew it was a long shot because of numbers, the style of play, the fact that we weren’t shooting the ball particularly well and we were playing a defense that didn’t allow us to cause turnovers.”
Several Titans received recognition for their accomplishments both on and off the court during the season.