Yakima Valley’s men, seeking their sixth straight NWAACC Tournament berth and eighth in nine seasons under coach Ray Funk, the stretch drive starts tonight at Treasure Valley.
At this writing, the Yaks are 5-5 in the East Region and 14-10 overall, and sit alone in fifth place with four regular-season games left. The top four teams in each region qualify for the tournament, scheduled for March 1-4 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.
A win tonight over the first-place Chukars (8-3, 15-8) would be huge for YVCC, which meets Blue Mountain on Saturday. On Jan. 29 in Sherar Gym, YVCC fell to Treasure 90-84.
The Yaks host Wenatchee Valley for their home finale on Wednesday before concluding their regular schedule on Feb. 22 at Wenatchee Valley.
“We’ll have a better idea of where we stand Saturday night,” Funk said, “but right now it looks like you win out and you’re in. If you go 3-1 I’m guessing you get maybe a play-in game and at 2-2 you’d have the possibility of a play-in game.
“So after Saturday night we might have a better idea. Or it could still be muddy.”
One thing that’s certain is that YVCC will go from here with it’s eight-man roster of Jason Ford, Marcus Hines, Lawrence Fiander, Jacoby Howe, Shannon Isadore, Art Erholm, Kaipo Pale and Joel Yellow Owl.
Juawnn Springfield, who was first suspended for four games by the NWAACC for a pregame altercation at Spokane and later suffered a broken hand, appears done for the season since a recent exam showed that his injury has not healed as hoped. The 6-foot-2 sophomore from Fremont, Calif. had averaged 22.6 points a game — seventh in the NWAACC — through 14 games.
Joel Yellow Owl has since picked up much of that slack, averaging 19.25 for the season.
Following is the East Region standings and the remaining schedules for playoff contenders Yakima Valley, Spokane, Walla Walla and Big Bend.
NWAACC EAST (region record, season record) — Columbia Basin (8-3, 15-8), Treasure Valley (7-3, 14-8), Big Bend (7-4, 18-7), Spokane (6-5, 16-9), Yakima Valley (5-5, 14-10), Walla Walla (5-6, 12-13), Wenatchee Valley (4-6, 10-13), Blue Mountain (0-10, 4-18).
YVCC remaining schedule: Tonight at Treasure Valley, Saturday at Blue Mountain, Wednesday vs. Spokane, Feb. 22 at Wenatchee Valley.
Spokane remaining schedule: Saturday vs. Columbia Basin, Wednesday at Yakima Valley, Feb. 22 at Big Bend.
Walla Walla remaining schedule: Saturday at Big Bend, Wednesday vs. Blue Mountain, Feb. 22 vs. Columbia Basin.
Big Bend remaining schedule: Saturday vs. Walla Walla, Wednesday at Wenatchee Valley, Feb. 22 vs. Spokane.