WINCHESTER — Taylor Stricklin’s time as a member of the Umpqua Community College women’s basketball team is coming to a close.
The No. 3-ranked Riverhawks (25-4) need two wins this weekend in the Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament in Everett, Washington, to advance to the Final Four on March 16. Umpqua, the No. 1 seed from the South Region, begins its quest against No. 6 North Idaho (20-8), the No. 4 seed from the East, on Saturday.
Stricklin, a 5-foot-11 guard and the lone sophomore on the roster, has led the Riverhawks from start to finish in her second season of college basketball.
She was selected the South Region’s most valuable player. She leads the NWAC in scoring (23.9) and 3-point field goals made (123). Stricklin has logged 1,076 minutes, second most in the NWAC. Her other numbers (4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.8 steals) reflect her all-around game.
“It has gone really fast,” said Taylor Stricklin, who joined the program last year after helping Sutherlin High win Class 4A state titles in 2016 and ‘17. “That (2017-18) season was a blur because we were winning (UCC lost to Walla Walla in the NWAC title game) and that was a great experience.
“All of a sudden it was recruiting time and I was a sophomore. Now it’s March. It goes by faster than you think it does. Sometimes it feels like it’s taking forever, there’s a lot going on and a lot to focus on. You don’t pay attention to the days and how long you’ve actually been doing it.”
Playing for her father, Dave, at UCC has given Taylor everything she hoped it would — and more. Dave Stricklin, in his 24th year as the Riverhawks’ coach, has won 849 games at UCC and Golden West College.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Taylor Stricklin, who turns 20 on Tuesday. “It’s hard to describe because there’s a lot more that goes into it than just a player-coach or a father-daughter relationship. I’ve gotten to know my dad a lot better ... being around him a lot more, I’ve got to see a different side of him.
“There were times in the past I didn’t see a whole lot of him during basketball season, that’s just how it was. We’ve gotten to spend a lot more time together the last two years. It’s been cool to get to know him better than just my parent.”
Dave Stricklin feels the same way about his youngest daughter.
“It’s gone unbelievably way too fast,” he said. “The other day when she came off the court (against Portland last Sunday in the final home game) for the last time, we met in front of the scorer’s table and I hugged her. The thing that was running through my mind was I wish we were starting instead of winding down.
“I’ve been able to spend so much more time with her the last couple of years than I ever did growing up. I always spent all that time with other people’s kids. I’ve had the chance to get to know her as an adult and basketball player, not just as a daughter. I’ve watched her mature and improve as a player.”
Taylor Stricklin ranks second on the all-time UCC scoring list with 1,221 points, only trailing Heidi Buehler (1,303 from 2000-02).
Taylor Stricklin’s leadership has helped bring the freshmen along. The undersized Riverhawks defeated No. 1 Lane 79-78 in Eugene on the final day of the regular season — their second win over the Titans this season — to earn a share of the South Region crown.
“It’s extremely rewarding to see us come this far,” she said. “Ask us in September if we thought we’d be in this situation, the answer is no. It’s amazing when you think about just how far we’ve come in the last two months. It’s been special to watch all the freshmen progress.”
One of them is Cielo Gonzalez, a former Springfield High standout.
“Taylor has helped me a lot,” Gonzalez said. “I make better decisions on and off the court. She’s led by example on the court ... has helped me know how to lead for next year, just by watching her. She’s always kept us uplifted even when we had our own doubts.”
“She’s gone above and beyond,” coach Stricklin added. “Taylor’s been a leader since last spring ... she’s been more involved from that (recruiting) standpoint than anybody we’ve ever had.
“She’s kept it going from day one (of the season). She’s an assistant coach on the floor, and as a coach I’m going to miss that part as much as anything else.”
Taylor Stricklin, a 4-point student who will graduate winter term, will continue her playing career next year at a four-year college. She’s planning to make some visits after the season.
“I think coaching would be a lot of fun (down the road),” she said. “It’s something that’s in the family, with grandpa (Richard Stricklin), dad, mom (Linda) and my brother (Brad) doing it. It’s something I’d be open to.”