JULIUS BENSON  The Mainstream

Dajanay Powell and Jordan Stotler’s dominating performances in the paint were the brushstrokes to the masterpiece that was the RiverHawks 17th straight victory Wednesday night, beating Southwestern Oregon Community College, 93-63. This is the RiverHawks second straight victory over SWOCC, previously beating them back in Nov. by a score of 98-53.

The tandem of Powell and Stotler combined for 29 rebounds, out rebounding the entire opposing team collectively by eight rebounds (21). Bria Thames led the way on offense, dropping 21 points off an efficient 10-17 shooting night.

“I was able to score efficiently thanks to my teammates; when we push the ball on the fast break it really helps create space on the floor,” said Thames.

SWOCC came into the contest with a different strategy compared to the previous Nov. meeting between the two teams. From the tip off their offense was centered on drive and kicks. Jessica Matheson, of SWOCC, came out driving the ball to the hoop early on either drawing fouls or passing the ball out for a jump shot.

Despite the first two quarters, which saw several lead changes, Southwestern Oregon was ultimately unable to overcome the depth of the LadyHawks. Overall there were five players in double figures on offense helping the ‘Hawks overcome a back and forth first half to outscore their opponents by 18 points in the second half on their way to a 30 point victory.

The Jan. 17 victory over SWOCC marks the RiverHawk’s 17th straight victory in as many games and UCC has been beating teams by an average margin of 30 points per contest, although their recent success comes as no surprise. This is after all the same team, with a healthy number of returning players, who charged through the previous regular season with a record of 29-2, only to fall short in a crushing five point loss to Spokane Community College in the NWAC Final 4.

While some may have hung their heads in defeat, the LadyHawks kept their poise and instead used those emotions as a fuel for their next run. They came into new season hungry to challenge themselves to improve on their success. Through many hours of practice and sharing both highs and lows, this is a team with a chemistry that is hard to match both on and off the court.

This chemistry was the product of some early season success when, in December, the RiverHawks traveled to Lower Columbia College to compete in the LCC Holiday Classic. While the first two matchups against Yakima Valley and Centralia proved to be no easy task, the RiverHawks were still able to defeat both teams with relatively comfortable leads.

UCC opened the tournament against Yakima Valley, where they were able to overcome an eight point half time deficit to come back and beat the Yaks by nine points, in large part because of a 24 point fourth quarter where Jordan Stotler and Taylor Stricklin combined to score 16 points. Centralia played a hard fought game but still fell to UCC by 17 points. For the championship the RiverHawks took on the North Idaho Cardinals, which ended up being the closest game of the current season for UCC.

In a game where the RiverHawks lead by as much as 22 points, they were ultimately challenged by the Cardinals who wound up losing by only four points. Mostly trailing by double digits for the first three quarters, the Cardinals were able to go on a run in the final two and half minutes of the fourth quarter, outscoring UCC 12 points to only four. Fortunately those four points were enough for the RiverHawks to hold onto the lead they had built early on and capture the Holiday Classic championship.

As the season rolls on the UCC RiverHawks are looking forward to making another run in the NWAC Tournament, and the way they are doing it is by focusing on one game at a time. The UCC LadyHawks next home game is on Wednesday, Jan. 31st where they will take on Lane Community College where tipoff is at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free for UCC students. •