Walla Walla Community College
Men's Basketball

Chukars knock off Warrior men

WWCC coach Jeff Reinland says he had a feeling his team was in jeopardy before the 91-88 loss.

The Walla Walla Community College men’s basketball team came in Wednesday night with the NWAC East Divison title already in hand, and finished with the game’s top two scorers — Landon Radliff had 37 points, and Damen Thacker 27.

But the Warriors spent most of the night chasing sixth-place Treasure Valley, and ended their regular season with a 91-88 loss in Northwest Athletic Conference action here on Wednesday.

WWCC (22-7 overall, 12-4 in the division) finished the regular season as the East’s top team — a ranking clinched with the Warriors’ win at North Idaho on Saturday, along with a return ticket to the upcoming NWAC Championship Tournament — but coach Jeff Reinland still came away upset.

“I saw this coming way ahead of it,” Reinland said. “I saw this coming the second we walked off the court after the NIC game.

“This was the worst defensive game we’ve had in a long time,” he continued. “We made too many mistakes. We didn’t follow directions.

“We did not have two good days of practice, Monday and Tuesday,” he added. “I felt like our preparation was really poor. (Treasure Valley) had a lot to play for. I think once we got out there our kids tried, but I just don’t think we prepared well.

“We tried to get them focused, but we just couldn’t do it.”

WWCC will look to shrug off Wednesday’s loss with more than a week to prepare for the postseason conference tournament starting March 10 at Everett Community College.

The Warriors, including a handful of returnees from last year’s championship, will learn of their first-round opponent at the Bracket Selection Show in Everett on Sunday.

“These kids will be over it by tomorrow,” Reinland said after the Treasure Valley game. “That’s the one thing about kids. They’re pretty resilient. It’s us adults that have to harder time.

“Last year we lost the last two games of the year, and went into the NWAC tournament and won it.”

However, WWCC expects a challenge with the postseason.

“We’re just another one of the teams,” Reinland said. “We’re lucky to be in the position we’re in. If you’d told me at the start of the year we were going to be 22-7 and league champs, I’d have told you that you were crazy. We didn’t win a single scrimmage the entire preseason. We were 0-5.

“This team, though, has the potential to play well, and usually we play good,” he continued. “But as far as the tournament, we’re just one of the boys. The whole tournament’s that way. Anybody can beat anybody. It was that way last year.”

Despite having already secured a return to the tournament, WWCC appeared on point at the outset of Wednesday’s game.

The Warriors jumped out to a 14-2 lead with four 3-pointers less than three minutes in, but Treasure Valley soon took over.

The Chukars mounted a 34-22 lead with more with eight minutes left in the first half and forced WWCC to regroup.

“Mentally, the first half especially, they caught us with our hands down and hit 3s right in our face,” Reinland said. “That’s a staple in my program. We don’t let that happen. And we let it happen.”

WWCC rallied to cut its deficit to single digits before halftime, and Radliff hit a 3-pointer (one of his eight out of 20 attempts) to get within 52-46.

Treasure Valley’s Landon Jones would manage a desperate 3 at the buzzer for a 57-48 lead at the break, but the Warriors only continued clawing their way back in.

Thacker eventually tied things up at 62-62 on his 3-pointer with 15:37 still left, and their next possession resulted in a Radliff free throw for their first lead since the opening minutes.

However, Treasure Valley then answered with a 3-pointer of their own — and the Chukars would continue to pace Walla Walla by a slim margin until a wild exchange in the final two minutes.

Thacker nailed a jump shot for a 86-85 Warrior lead with 2:08 left, but a foul on Tyus Jefferson’s try from 3-point range for Treasure Valley gave him three free-throws. He converted two, and took back the lead.

Radliff then missed a pair of free-throws, but soon stole the ball back and fed Jake Albright for a fast-break layup to put WWCC on top with a minute to go.

The Warriors never scored again, and another foul on a Treasure Valley 3-point attempt sent De’Marco Alexander to the line with 33.8 second left. He hit all three.

In the final seconds, while the Chuckars added a Hunter Bailey free-throw, WWCC missed three bids from 3-point range.

“We got out-played, no question,” Reinland said. “You’ve got to give Treasure Valley credit. They out-played us.

“It just wasn’t our night.”

Chukars 91, Warriors 88

TREASURE VALLEY (91) — Jefferson 25, Mitchell 12, Okafor 12, Jones 12, H. Bailey 10, Schetzle 8, Alexander 8, B. Bailey 4.

WALLA WALLA (88) — Radliff 37, Thacker 27, Albright 11, Porter 8, Kitchen 5.

Halftime — Treasure Valley, 57-48. 3-point goals — Treasure Valley 7, Walla Walla 15. Total fouls — Treasure Valley 17, Walla Walla 20. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — Treasure Valley (Jefferson), Walla Walla (bench). Rebounds — Treasure Valley 45, Walla Walla 32. Turnovers — Treasure Valley 13, Walla Walla 9. Assists — Treasure Valley 7, Walla Walla 12.

Union Bulletin