Two high-scoring women’s basketball teams will square off on Saturday in a Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament Final Four semifinal game.
Third-ranked Umpqua (27-4) meets No. 2 Big Bend (27-4) at 1 p.m. at Everett Community College.
The Riverhawks, the No. 1 seed out of the South Region, advanced in the tournament by defeating No. 6 North Idaho 68-62 and Grays Harbor 86-68.
The Vikings, the No. 1 seed from the East, rolled past No. 8 Mt. Hood 89-53 and Centralia 79-52.
No. 1 Lane (28-3) faces No. 4 Wenatchee Valley (26-5) at 3 p.m. in the other semifinal. The winners will play for the title at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Umpqua is the youngest team still alive, with one sophomore and 10 freshmen. The Riverhawks last won the tournament in 2000, which was Dave Stricklin’s second NWAC crown as UCC’s head coach.
“It’s outstanding, it’s crazy (making the Final Four),” UCC freshman forward Lexi Woodard said. “No one thought we could do it. Everyone thought since we were mostly freshmen it was going to be very difficult. It was hard, but we came and showed them we’re here to play.”
“We’re all really excited about it,” UCC redshirt freshman forward Darian Mitchell said. “It was definitely a goal we had. We’ve impressed ourselves along with everybody else. It’s going to be fun. We just have to play hard and do our best.”
Umpqua ranks second in the NWAC in scoring with 83.8 points a game, while Big Bend is third at 79.9. The Vikings are first in 3-point field goals made, averaging 9.1 a game.
“They’re similar to Lane,” Dave Stricklin said. “They’ve got a lot of players who are about the same size and put four really good shooters on the floor at the same time. They want to fast break and shoot a lot of 3s, both off the break and in half-court.
“Big Bend won its region championship playing at a different pace than everybody else did. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to want to slow it down and I know we won’t.”
The Vikings feature a balanced scoring attack, led by sophomore guard Miranda Johnson (15.0). Hannah Wilson (12.4 points, 6.6 rebounds), Leah Dougherty (11.2 points) and Kelsey Sorenson (9.9 points, 8.7 rebounds) are other contributors.
Johnson was a first-team all-league selection and Wilson made the second team.
“We have to work on our defense,” Mitchell said. “We have to make sure we’re on all the shooters.”
The two clubs rank in the top four in rebounding in the NWAC, with Umpqua first at 47 a game. Mitchell ranks first individually, pulling down 12.3 a game.
“We definitely have to limit our turnovers and increase our rebounding,” UCC sophomore guard Taylor Stricklin said. “Getting extra possessions, especially when you’re playing those good teams, you can’t afford to give them the ball more times because they’re going to convert them.
“We have to play our game, do our thing and not panic. We can’t let other people dictate what we’re going to do.”
Taylor Stricklin, the South Region MVP, leads the NWAC in scoring (23.9) and 3-point field goals (132).
Expected to join Taylor Stricklin in the starting lineup are Mitchell (17.7 points), Woodard (6.1 points, 5 rebounds), Sienna Riggle (7.3 points, 7.0 rebounds) and Lainey Rincon (1.7 points).
Cielo Gonzalez (12.4 points) and Grace Campbell (9 points, 7.9 rebounds) are first off the bench.
Mitchell, the former Douglas High standout, has raised her play in the tournament with 52 points and 31 rebounds.
“Darian has been amazing,” Taylor Stricklin said. “We wouldn’t have made it this far without her.”
Dave Stricklin favors Lane over Wenatchee Valley. The Titans won the first meeting with Wenatchee this season, prevailing 75-69.