The first unbeaten season in Umpqua Community College women’s basketball history resulted in another postseason honor for head coach Dave Stricklin.
Stricklin, who’s guided the Riverhawks’ successful program for 25 years, was selected the Northwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year for the 2019-20 season that was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
Clif Wegner of Clackamas received the same honor on the men’s side.
Stricklin was also one of five finalists for the 2020 United States Marine Corps/WBCA Two-Year College National Coach of the Year. That award was won by Cayla Petree of South Plains College (Texas).
The Umpqua women finished 29-0 overall and 16-0 in South Region play and were ranked No. 1 in the NWAC coaches poll the entire season. But they were deprived of competing for the big prize — the NWAC championship. The tournament was canceled on March 12.
It was the third time Stricklin, 61, has won the award. He coached the Riverhawks to Northwest titles in 1997 and 2000.
“It’s a little different. It actually means a little bit more to me because we didn’t win the whole thing,” said Stricklin, who was the South Region Coach of the Year. “Typically this goes to the coach who wins the tournament. Having a legitimate vote by your peers means a lot.”
With 10 sophomores on the roster, UCC led the NWAC in scoring (84 points per game), field goals made (32.4), field-goal percentage (47.6), rebounding margin (20.5) and assists (19.5). The Riverhawks ranked eighth in points allowed (58.1).
Umpqua was one of five women’s basketball teams in the nation to finish undefeated during the winter.
Stricklin credited his coaching staff, players, UCC athletic director Craig Jackson and the rest of those associated with the program for the outstanding season.
“Most don’t realize how many people get us from point A to point B,” Stricklin said. “This is definitely a group effort, a group award.”
UCC’s starting five consisted of two former Douglas High School standouts, Darian Mitchell and Lainey Rincon. Mitchell, who redshirted her freshman year, averaged 17.4 points and 8 rebounds and was selected to the All-South Region first team.
They were joined by Grace Campbell (9.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists), a first-team all-league pick and the Defensive Player of the Year; Cielo Gonzalez (16.2 points, 4.5 assists), who made first-team all-league; and Sienna Riggle (9.5 points, 7.3 rebounds).
The top reserves were Hunter Boske (11.2 points) and freshman Mariam Yaro (8.9 points, 6.8 rebounds). Boske, a transfer from Mt. Hood, connected on 77 3-pointers.
“This year we had so many sophomores and so much experience. As a coach, you try to stay out of the way and not screw it up,” Stricklin said. “I think we were the best team. We were the deepest team in the NWAC.
“(Ranking first in assists) is an indication of our players being unselfish and sharing the ball. We had several players who could score and they took turns.”
Stricklin owns an 881-185 career record in 33 years at UCC and Golden West College.
Wegner coached the top-ranked Clackamas men to a 25-3 record. The Cougars won the South Region crown, with both of their league losses coming to Umpqua.
Sophomore guard Robert Ford of Clackamas was named the Baden Basketball Player of the Year. Freshman guard Brooke Bullock of Clackamas received the same honor for the women.