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NWAC Road to the Final Four - Who will make it to Sunday?

Basketball Final Four Graphic

VANCOUVER -- The Final Four is set for this weekend at the Walt Price Student Fitness Center at Everett Community College in Everett, WA.

The men will open the event at 2pm on Saturday with North #2 seed Peninsula College Pirates taking on South #2 seed Linn-Benton Community College Roadrunners.  The second match-up features the East #3 seed North Idaho College Cardinals versus South #1 seed Portland Community College Panthers at 4pm.

The women get started at 6pm with North #1 seed Bellevue College Bulldogs taking on South #1 Umpqua Community College Riverhawks, followed by East #4 Seed Big Bend Community College Vikings matching up against East #1 rival Walla Walla Community College Warriors in the nightcap at 8pm.

BRACKETS: MEN | WOMEN

MEN: Peninsula Pirates vs. Linn-Benton Roadrunners, 2pm
The Pirates (21-10) and Roadrunners (22-9) met December 30, with the Pirates taking a 77-72 decision over LBCC. Peninsula took a 10 point halftime lead 41-31, but were outscored in the second half 41-36.
Colby Jackson tallied 24 points, 6 assists and 3 steals to lead the Pirates and the team shot 38.6% from the field, 30.4% from the arc and 86.7% at the free throw line. 

Taylor Jensen led the way for the Roadrunners scoring 19 points while adding 8 boards, 2 blocks and 3 steals. LBCC shot a similar FG percentage of 38.5% while hitting 25% from the arc and 77.3% at the free throw line.

Both squads committed an uncharacteristically high 17 turnovers.
Peninsula arrives at the Final Four with convincing victories over S#3 Clackamas Cougars (87-74) and W#1 South Puget Sound Clippers (69-59). Linn-Benton’s resume includes nine-point wins over N#3 Edmonds Community College Tritons (81-72) and E#1, NWAC defending champions, Walla Walla Warriors (84-75).

Peninsula averages 80.6ppg (20th in conference) on 45.7% shooting while allowing opponents to 73.9ppg (4th least). The Roadrunners average 86.5ppg (10th) on 44.5% shooting while allowing 77.0ppg (10th).

Other top ten-team stats: The Pirates are 7th in the league in 3PT% (37.3%), 8th in rebound margin/game (3.1), 6th in personal fouls/game (15.4) and 1st in opponents’ 3PT percentage (30.9%).

Linn-Benton is 10th in FG attempts/game (69.5), 4th in FT made/game (16.6), 7th in FT attempts/game (22.0), 3rd in FT% (75.4), 4th in defensive rebounds/game (29.3), 10th in total rebounds/game (41.2), 7th in rebound margin/game (3.7), 7th in steals/game (8.1) and 10th in opponents’ FG percentage (42.4%).

MEN: Portland Panthers vs. North Idaho Cardinals, 4pm
After slaying top-ranked Everett 112-110 in a double overtime thriller Sunday – the question is – do the Cardinals still have enough in the tank to take down 2nd-ranked Portland?... Six days rest should help.

The two squads have not met this season, but do have common opponents in Big Bend, Chemeketa, Yakima Valley and Spokane. Portland turned in a slightly better record going 5-2 against the common opponents while North Idaho registered a 4-3 record.

Portland (26-5) enters the Final Four averaging 85.1ppg (16th) on 46.8% shooting while allowing opponents 76.2ppg (8th best). North Idaho (23-8) tallies 87.2ppg (7th) on 48.4% shooting while allowing 75.4ppg (7th).

The Cardinals led the league in several team categories – 1st in FG% (48.4), 1st in FT made/game (19.3), 1st in FT attempts/game (26.4), 1st in defensive rebounds/game (31.4), 1st in rebound margin/game (11.6) and 1st in opponents FG percentage (38.7).

Portland in comparison shoots 46.8% (6th), 3rd in FT made/game (18.2), 2nd in FT attempts/game (24.8), 6th in defensive rebounds/game (29.1), 3rd in rebound margin/game (7.3) and 4th in opponents FG percentage (41.1).

Portland has a stingier defense grabbing 8.4 steals/game (6th) and 3.8 blocks (5th) to NIC’s 6.5 steals (26th) and 3.0 blocks (14th).

Portland punched their ticket to the Final Four with a late come-from-behind win over Bellevue 72-67 and a thumping of 4th-ranked Spokane 93-65. In addition to North Idaho’s epic battle with Everett, the Cardinals routed Lower Columbia in the Sweet Sixteen, 86-68.

Women: Umpqua Riverhawks vs. Bellevue Bulldogs, 6pm
In their only previous meeting of the season, the Riverhawks (30-1) defeated the Bulldogs (22-8) in a preseason tournament at Bellevue. UCC pulled out to a 21-12 lead before taking a 43-32 halftime lead into the locker room. After a tight 3rd quarter, BC outscored the Riverhawks 21-16 in the fourth period, but fell short, 87-79.

The Riverhawks used a balanced scoring attack with all five starters scoring in double figures led by sophomore Dajanay Powell with 24. The Bulldogs had four players in double-digit scoring led by sophomore Brenda Akoto’s 25.

Bellevue turned in a 48.3% FG percentage to UCC’s 45.7%. With most team statistical categories being equal, the game was decided on the backboard as Umpqua took down 40 rebounds to Bellevue’s 19. The twin towers of 6’3” Powell (10) and 6’4” Jordan Stotler (8) combined for 18 of UCC’s rebounds. Bellevue did take an advantage in steals with 7 to the Riverhawks 1.

Top-ranked Umpqua got to the Final Four with an 11-point win over N#4 seed Peninsula Pirates 83-62 before dismantling E#2 and 5th-ranked Columbia Basin Hawks 93-66 in a lopsided victory.

Bellevue’s road to the Final Four includes wins over S#4 seed Mt. Hood Saints 61-57 and W#2 seed Lower Columbia Red Devils 70-62.

Umpqua enters the Final Four scoring 87.4 ppg (1st) on a 50% FG average (1st) while only allowing opponents 59.7ppg (4th lowest).

Bellevue averages 71.0ppg (11th) on 41.9% shooting (9th) while allowing 62.9 ppg (9th).

The Bulldogs will have their hands full as the Riverhawks lead the league in 11 team statistical categories and are in the top 6 in another 5 categories.

UCC leads the NWAC in: Points, Points/game, FG made/game, FG%, Defensive rebounds/game, Total rebounds/game, Rebound margin/game, Assists/game, Blocks/game, Opponents’ FG % and Opponents’ 3PT%. They are top six in: FG attempts/game (6th), 3PT% (5th), Offensive rebounds/game (3rd), Personal fouls/game (2nd least) and Points/game allowed (4th).

The Bulldogs have also put up some solid stats ranking in top ten in 10 categories: FG% (9th), 3PT% (9th), FT made/Game (4th), FT attempts/game (6th), FT% (3rd), Defensive rebounds/game (8th), Rebound margin/game (10th), Assists/game (8th), Points per game allowed (9th) and Opponents’ FG% (9th).

The question for Bellevue’s shorter squad… while they can certainly run with the Riverhawks, can Brenda Akoto and company keep Powell from dominating in the paint and scoring at will?

Powell scorched a smaller CBC team for 46 points on 91.3% shooting while tying a tournament record for points and smashing the FG made record with 21 in the game. The Bulldogs may have to extend their defense to pressure the Riverhawks in the full court.

Women: Walla Walla Warriors vs. Big Bend Vikings, 8pm
The 2nd-ranked and E#1 seeded Warriors (30-1) enter the game with two decisive victories over the tournament Cinderella, E#4 Vikings (22-9). WWCC swept BBCC in East Region play by scores of 91-62 and 96-46.

The Warriors will not be looking past the Vikings though as the East Region was solid from top to bottom. Walla Walla arrived to the Final Four with impressive wins over the W#4 Highline Thunderbirds 78-37 and 3rd-ranked S#2 Lane Titans in a stunner 85-62.

The Warriors’ only blemish on the season came to a constructed all-star team that included 2-time WNBA all-star and Louisville All-American Shoni Schimmel along with former Eastern Washington University & New Mexico State stars Tisha Phillips & Abby Scott.  WWCC only lost to the highly skilled squad 88-76.

Walla Walla has compiled some impressive team stats on the season and are in the top 9 in 15 categories: Points (3rd), Points per game (80.1), FG made/game (4th), FG% (2nd), 3PT made/game (7th), 3PT% (1st), FT% (1st), Defensive rebounds/game (6th), Total rebounds/game (8th), Rebound margin/game (2nd), Turnovers/game (lowest), Personal fouls/game (6th lowest), Points per game allowed (2nd), Opponents FG % (7th), and Opponents 3PT% (9th).

11th-ranked Vikings stunned 4th-ranked and W#1 Grays Harbor 70-59 before taking out 10th-ranked Everett 89-79 in front of a massive Trojan hometown crowd last Friday.

Big Bend has also tallied big stats and are in the top ten in 14 categories: Points (5th), Points per game (9th), FG made/game (8th), FG% (7th), 3PT made/game (1st), 3PT attempts/game (4th), 3PT% (6th), FT made/game (10th), FT attempts/game (9th), Rebound margin/game (6th),  Assists/game (9th), Turnovers/game (9th fewest), Steals/game (10th) and Personal fouls/game (4th fewest).

The Vikings will need to find an answer for East Region MVP Cierra Jo McKeown who is averaging 22.6ppg (2nd in the league) and Jade Skidmore (15.5ppg/9.4rpg/4.9apg). The sophomore combo has lit up the Vikings in the previous two meetings.


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