Despite an early loss in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championships, the 2012-2013 men’s basketball team isn’t one to be forgotten. They entered the NWAACC championships with a 23-4 record and a Western Division Title, and they finished eighth out of the sixteen teams who made it to the playoffs.
Head Coach Bill Mendelson had planned on taking a conservative approach into the playoffs to avoid a quick defeat.
“It’s scary,” he said. “We’ve been a lower seed before and beaten out higher seeds. You can’t take it for granted because anyone can win. You just need a little luck.”
For the Raiders, luck was not on their side in the first game of the tournament. Everett Community College defeated them with a score of 89-80. This was followed by a decisive 88-57 win over Southwest Oregon Community College, a 63-60 loss to Centralia Community College and an 88-80 win over Yakima Valley Community College. Two of their five losses overall came from the NWAACC championship tournament.
The accomplishment of placing eighth in the NWAACC championships, along with their success in league, is attributed to more than key contributors to the offense. Mendelson accredits their success to their defense, selflessness and teamwork.
“We are at least 100 assists above the closest team to us,” Mendelson said, speaking of league play. “We share the ball and we have a strong defense. We have good chemistry.”
The team will be losing four key players after this season. The departure of Blayne Clanton, Tyrell Lewis, John Palmer and Derek Porter, all sophomores, will leave a gap in the roster. Lewis, player of the year in the Western Division, is in the top 10 of the league in scoring and rebounding, and he’s the leader in steals. Palmer is a two-time captain and a First Team All-Star in the division, and Porter, also a two-time player, is a leading scorer for the team. Clanton suffered a broken hand in the beginning of the season, but has since returned and has also contributed to the team’s success.
Freshman players such as Devin Matthews and Gary Jacobs are expected to step up and fill those empty spots. Matthews is No. 4 in assists and No. 10 in steals within the league, and Jacob is third in total amount of points scored for the team, behind only Lewis and Porter.
“We are going to have some good guys back,” Mendelson said. “We also have some good recruits that are interested in us and like our style of play. But we are losing four really good players, and they will be tough to replace.”
Mendelson, who has been a Pierce College coach for ten years, has personally made it into the Pierce College history books. He was selected to be the West Division Coach of the Year. He also had his 300th win this season, the first Pierce College coach to achieve such an honor.
“All this confetti came out after we won the game, and I thought it was because we won the Western Division title,” Mendelson said. “It was a nice surprise. I didn’t know that it was my 300th win.”
The year prior, Mendelson led his team to place second in the NWAACC championships, with a 13-3 league record, the highest league wins in a season until this year. The Raiders held a 15-1 record this year in league play, losing only an intense 2-point game against Tacoma Community College.
“This is a great team,” Mendelson said. “It’s been the best regular season team in four years of basketball. But we still have work to do to be considered the best [basketball] team so far at Pierce.”
More information on the NWAACC games and the Raiders’ season can be found online at www.puyalluppost.com.
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