The Titan Classic delivered 12 games of basketball excitement last weekend. Spectators from all over the Pacific Northwest gathered for the three day invitational basketball meet. Lane hosted Pierce, Linn-Benton and Spokane community colleges.
“We never lose at home,” Titan’s sophomore guard Shelby Snook said. “That’s our goal every year. It’s something that is really important to us and we take great pride in defending our floor.”
The Titan defense forced 64 turnovers, paving the way for a lightning-fast offense. The Titans scored a combined 213 points (87 off turnovers) while only allowing 111 points in their victories over both the Pierce Raiders and Linn-Benton Roadrunners. Spokane won its first two games in similar fashion and awaited the Titans in the final event, sporting warm-up uniforms that read “Bigfoot basketball never stops.”
“Lane is one of the best teams in the [Northwest Athletic Conference], we know that,” Spokane head coach Bruce Johnson said. “We [also] think we’re one of the best teams in the NWAC.”
Titan’s head coach Greg Sheley knew a win over Spokane would not come easily. “[Spokane’s] got a good high/low game, and an effective half court defense,” Sheley said prior to stepping on to the court. “We’re going to have to execute a little bit better against Spokane to get the victory, but I think we can.”
Both teams huddled around their respective coaches for final instructions and words of encouragement. Each team’s huddle broke with a roar and the players confronted each other at mid-court.
Fans held their breath in anticipation of seeing which team would first possess the ball. The ball tipped to the Titans and Snook took it straight to the basket for a quick two points and an early Titan lead. But with 4:59 left on the clock, the Titans lost their lead for the first time in the match.
The Titans countered with an aggressive move to the basket that took Snook to the free-throw line — a place she found herself ten times over the course of the game — where Lane reclaimed the lead. Johnson responded by flipping through his playbook and promptly calling for a time out.
Johnson’s adjustments led to a back and forth slugfest that put spectators at the edge of their seats, and Spokane up by four points going into the second half.
“We’re letting them drive to the basket way too easy,” Sheley said. The Titans would have to finish the game with an emphasis on defense if they were to defeat Spokane.
The Titans responded to Sheley’s call and were able to end the third quarter with a seven point advantage, but Spokane held true to their motto and never quit. They knocked in five three-point shots and pulled down 20 rebounds in the second-half. The Titans sealed the three game sweep with a final score of 85-80.
At the end of the night, Khandija Neumeyer was given the Most Valuable Player award for Spokane and Jordan Kimbrough took home the award for the Titans.
“It was our first tournament of the year so we got to learn how to play together as a team,” Neumeyer said of her experience at this year’s Titan Classic.
Titan guard Shelby Snook recorded seven steals, 18 assists, 16 rebounds, 67 points and made her way to the free throw line 23 times over the three games earning her the 2015 Titan Classic overall MVP award.
“I’m very proud of how we [the Titans] were able to come together and win under pressure tonight,” Snook said. “Everyone is going to want to beat us so we need to be prepared enough to win every night.”
Beyond the spectacle, the Titan Classic has proven to be a valuable way for all participating teams to strengthen their programs early in the season. It also marked the beginning of what is expected to be a most exciting season for the Titans this year.
“We got a tough early season matchup that was every bit as competitive as we expected,” Sheley said. “I think that is going to be good for us going forward.”