With their 101-99 victory over the Chemeketa Community College Storm on Feb. 28, the Lane men’s basketball team clinched second place in the Northwest Athletic Conference South Region — their best finish since 2001 — and punched their ticket to the NWAC tournament.
Lane entered the game in a three-way tie for second place and, depending on how other games around the conference turned out, were in danger of finishing as low as fourth in the region.
They were able to outlast the Chemeketa Storm in a thrilling overtime affair that featured nine ties and 16 lead changes.
“We ended it with defense; we had to get a stop,” sophomore forward Dale Baker said. “It starts with defense and it ends with defense, that’s what we always preach.”
Baker led the Titans with 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and freshman guard Duce Namazi also poured in 24 points.
Chemeketa forfeits season
Chemeketa had already clinched first place in the region earlier in the week, but it was announced prior to the game that their season would be forfeited after school officials were informed that an ineligible athlete had played for the Chemeketa Storm during the season.
The player hasn’t been named, and representatives of the school could not be reached for comment, but as of March 3, the Storm record was 0-29 according to the NWAC website, and they will not be eligible for post-season play.
The Clackamas Community College Cougars were crowned Southern Region champions following Chemeketa’s disqualification.
The Titans now have their eyes set on a first round matchup with the Everett Community College Trojans in the NWAC tournament coming up March 7.
In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, Lane head coach Bruce Chavka has found success with a group that features five sophomores, three of whom have been with the program for three years.
“It’s been great to have guys that have been around the program … guys who have that third year leadership,” Chavka said. “I think that’s why we’re having some success — these guys have been around the block a little bit. They’re a little older and they provide the sort of leadership that you don’t really get from freshman.”
Despite the lack of a true go-to scoring threat, the Titans have been a consistent offensive force this year thanks to a balanced scoring attack that doesn’t depend on any one player to carry the offense.
Baker, the team captain, does a little bit of everything for the Titans. He is averaging 11.76 points, and 7.04 rebounds per-game while also shooting 41 percent from three-point range.
Sophomore forward Tre Clark is Lane’s leading scorer and rebounder and provides a dominant defensive presence, and sophomore guard Jared Kelsay leads the team in assists.
Sophomore forward Aaron Smith, a 6-foot-6 transfer from New York, is ninth in the conference with 1.35 blocks per-game, and guard Willy Malos is a third year sophomore who leads the reserve unit.
“Some years [team chemistry] doesn’t come together,” Chavka said. “This year it has come together really nicely. They’ve bought into what we’re trying to do, they’ve bought into the team aspect … the five sophomores have just been invaluable.”
Freshman guard Malik Leaks is also averaging 13.50 points per game, but has missed the past seven games with an ankle sprain. Chavka said Leaks should be cleared to play for the NWAC tournament.