The dot connectors among NWAACC basketball observers will no doubt take a brief analytical glace at Yakima Valley’s women’s tournament-opening matchup with Lane and conclude that the Yaks have no chance.
Beyond the records (YVCC is 16-11, Lane is 26-2) and rankings (YVCC is unranked, Lane is No. 2), there is this: On Dec. 16 on the Titans court in Eugene, Ore., Lane defeated YVCC 84-54.
Damning evidence, it seems, if ever it existed.
But many among the Yaks, including first-year coach Greg Oldham, would hasten to add, not so fast.
“I was talking with (assistant coach) Brittany Weaver, who had been watching film of that game,” Oldham said earlier this week. “And she said you could tell that the kids hadn’t really bought into what we were doing. We’ve changed a lot since then.”
To be sure, Yakima Valley has evolved from a team that seemed to be searching for an identity through the first half of its East Region season, during which it went 3-4, into a much more confident and cohesive unit the second time around.
And entering today’s noon encounter in Kennewick’s Toyota Center, the Yaks have undeniable momentum.
They have won seven of their last eight, with a 56-50 defeat of region champion and third-ranked Walla Walla included. Their lone loss during the surge was a 75-73 overtime setback at No. 6 Columbia Basin.
Yakima Valley’s improvement has involved freshman point guard Sammi Jo Blodgett, who leads the team with a 12.7 scoring average and 4.2 assists. Angelique Williams, the Yaks’ best 3-point threat, is second among the scorers at 10.7 with forwards Hannah Lekson and Jaimi Cox following at 9.9 each.
Cox was slowed for several games by a back ailment, but is now at full strength, Oldham said.
Others from among sophomores Kaylah Gonzales and Destiny Phillips, the latter at 6-foot-2 being YVCC’s tallest player, have contributed along with freshmen Paige Albrecht, Mikaela Zimmer and Chantel Dixon.
Lane, meanwhile, is coached by Greg Sheley, who in 14 seasons at the school has gone 319-60 (.842). Megan Shields, a 6-1 sophomore, is the team’s top scorer at 14.1 while guards Simone Thompson and Kersey Wilcox next at 10.5 and 10.0, respectively.
“They’re a team that starts their offense through their post, whether it’s a high post or low post,” Oldham said. “And when the defense cheats to help her, they have shooters ready on the perimeter.”
That said, and even with a team of largely inexperienced players from a program that reached the last three NWAACC title games (and won in 2011) under Cody Butler, there are factors in YVCC’s favor.
“We’ve had a week and a half to get ready for them,” he said, adding that YVCC had practiced in the SunDome to familiarize itself with a larger, open venue. “And we go in with really nothing to lose. They’re the team with the pressure on them.”
The 16-team, double-elimination event runs through Tuesday.