The Umpqua Community College men’s basketball tournament run came to an abrupt end on Thursday, March 9 in Everett, Washington where they fell to the Spokane Sasquatch by a final score of 90-77. The loss ends the RiverHawk’s 2019 season in the sweet 16.
UCC came into the tournament fresh off a disappointing road loss in Eugene by a final score of 87-81 in their battle against Lane for the North West Athletic Conference’s Southern division. The victory makes Lane first in the region.
“The South Region is really tough. It’s unfortunate, we were one game away from winning the region and earning a number one spot in the tournament,” Coach Daniel Leeworthy explained, “The Lane game was an emotional roller coaster.”
RiverHawks vs. Lane
Umpqua had a tough time moving the ball against Lane’s defense, which forced the RiverHawks to commit 13 turnovers. Lane converted UCC’s turnovers into easy transition buckets, leading them to score 21 points off of turnover, while Umpqua was only able to score eight points off of Lane’s turnovers.
Lane also gained a sizable advantage from the charity stripe, converting on 22 of 28 free throws compared to the RiverHawk’s 11 of 18 free.
“Lane did a good job staying in attack mode. We just needed to be better on defense,” Leeworthy said of his team.
RiverHawk’s Center John Morill-Keeler led the charge on offense in the second half, tallying 23 of his 32 points in the second half, shooting an efficient 9 of 12 from the field. Umpqua regained a brief 64-61 lead with just under nine minutes remaining in the ball game, but would struggle to stop Lane from scoring for the remainder of regulation. UCC ultimately fell to Lane by a final score of 87-81, finalizing their opening tournament match-up against Spokane.
RiverHawks vs. Spokane
Coming into their Sweet-16 tournament game, Umpqua looked sluggish on the defense allowing Spokane to jump ahead early by double digits. Spokane’s defense double teamed Umpqua’s guards around the perimeter, forcing the RiverHawk offense further away from the basket on offensive sets.
“They were the more aggressive team to start the game,” Leeworthy said “We went a little cold on offense against Spokane. I felt like we were getting wide open shots, we went 1 of 13 from the three-point line, but I don’t think any of our shots were rushed or contested; we just had to do better on hitting those open shots.”
Despite being bottled up on offense, Umpqua went on a run mid-way through the first half, knotting up the score at 21 a piece with just eight minutes. Spokane, however, turned up their intensity to close out the first half, with a 22-7 run to put the RiverHawk’s down 43-28 at halftime.
“Spokane was just really ready to play us. We had beaten them earlier in the year, and we felt pretty good coming into the game; unfortunately, if we had beat them, I believe we’d still be competing in the tournament right now, and we’d be competing for a shot at the championship. In the end things didn’t work out that way,” Leeworthy said.
UCC never made up ground on Spokane’s 15-point halftime lead, falling by a final score of 90-77. The loss knocked Umpqua out of the NWAC tournament, ending their ’18-‘19 season with a record of 20-10.
“It was a good season, we had a tough non-conference schedule, and we grew and matured as a team. We finished 13-3 in the South which was my best finish in the region. Overall it was a great group of guys that worked hard in the classroom and were terrific on the basketball court,” Leeworthy said of the season. “To win 20 games was a good achievement, and we’re hoping to continue to grow moving forward.”