WINCHESTER — The coronavirus pandemic cost the Umpqua Community College men’s basketball team an opportunity at competing for the Northwest Athletic Conference tournament championship for a second straight year.
So winning South Region regular season and playoff titles for the truncated 2021 spring slate carries special meaning for the Riverhawks.
“It means the world, especially after last year’s tournament was canceled,” Umpqua sophomore point guard Cody Fredrickson said. “These guys have been doing this for nine months, and we practiced a long time before we were able to play a game. Every guy has sacrificed.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
The Riverhawks made up an 11-point deficit in the last 2:36 of regulation to force overtime, then outscored Lane 18-13 in the five-minute extra session to earn a 104-99 victory in the championship game on Saturday afternoon in the UCC gym.
The contest was held before no fans because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Umpqua (16-1) didn’t put the contest away in overtime until Isaac Lungren converted a pair of free throws with 8.6 seconds left to make it a two-possession game.
A putback basket by Fredrickson just before the buzzer in regulation following a missed 3-pointer by Nathan Webb kept the game going.
“That was crazy,” said Webb, a freshman forward who finished with a career-high 36 points. “We fought back in the first half (after trailing by 12), so that took a lot out of us. We got ourselves in a hole again in the second half. I think all we’ve been through over these nine months is what helped us to be able to come back.
“It means so much. We love each other, we’re a tight brotherhood. To share this moment is huge.”
The Riverhawks celebrated on the court afterwards, breaking out championship shirts and cutting down a net.
“That was an intense game ... one of the most intense games I’ve ever been a part of,” UCC coach Daniel Leeworthy said. “It was unbelievable. Credit to Lane, they’re a terrific team and are playing their best basketball right now.
“As a coach, you always believe and don’t doubt but when you’re down by 11 with about three minutes to go, a little doubt crept in. But I knew we weren’t going to give up. It’s really a tribute to our guys’ fight all season and I’m really proud of them.”
The Titans (12-5) handed Umpqua its lone loss of the spring in the regular season finale on May 15, winning 92-74 in Eugene. The Riverhawks finished with the most wins among all the NWAC schools.
Fredricksen and Lungren, the two returning starters from last year who were playing in their final game for UCC, combined for 32 points. Freshman forward Marcus Sherwood added 15 points.
Freshman guard Jay Elmore was terrific for Lane, scoring 21 of his 28 points in the first half. Elmore hit five of the Titans’ 11 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes.
The Riverhawks weathered that storm, though, making a late run to get within 47-46 at halftime.
“We were fortunate to be in the position we were,” Fredrickson said. “Lane is really good. We had a good game plan put in, but they lit us up early. Elmore was killing us in the first half, but we did a great job on him in the second half.”
“To only be down one (at the half) was remarkable,” Leeworthy said. “(Elmore) was tough, I haven’t seen a performance like that. Their zone and press bothered us, but we fought.
“We didn’t have a typical offensive game, but it was fight and toughness that won us the game.”
Jared Bagley hit three 3-pointers for nine points for UCC. Jacob Tompkins scored 16 points and Cameron Parks had 14 for the Titans.
LANE (99) — Jay Elmore 28, Parks 14, McGarvey 11, Tompkins 16, McAninch 3, Crawford 1, Galbraith, Brown 6, Wallace 4, Lomax 9, Blythe 7.
UMPQUA (104) — Nathan Webb 36, Bagley 9, Wood, Johnson 2, Lungren 14, Sofia 3, Fredrickson 18, Hiatt 2, Harris 5, Sherwood 15.
Halftime — LCC 47-46. End of Regulation — Tied 86-86. 3-Point Shots — LCC 14 (Elmore 5, Parks 4, Tompkins 3, McAninch 1, Lomax 1), UCC 6 (Bagley 3, Lungren 2, Webb 1). Fouled Out — Blythe, Elmore, Harris, Webb. Technical Foul — UCC coach Leeworthy.