EVERETT — Walla Walla Community College won one Northwest Athletic Conference basketball championship Sunday at Everett Community College, and almost won two.
The Warriors crushed Tacoma Community College 93-75 in the men’s championship contest after Community Colleges of Spokane edged Walla Walla 76-73 in overtime to win the women’s title.
For the eighth time in NWAC history, a school advanced its men’s and women’s basketball teams to the championship game in the same season. Spokane in 2008 was the last school to accomplish that feat.
The championships are the first for two long-time coaches — Walla Walla’s Jeff Reinland (24th season) and Spokane’s Bruce Johnson (32nd season).
Walla Walla 93, Tacoma 75
Entering Sunday’s game, the Warriors had attempted 1,172 3-point shots, by far most in the NWAC. Walla Walla converted 37 percent of those shots, a big reason for its high-scoring offense.
On Sunday, the Warriors took a lot of 3-pointers (20) and made a lot (10), as usual. But Walla Walla also was able to get offense in other ways and played lockdown defense. All of those factors combined for a runaway win for the Warriors.
“We can get the ball inside and drive the lane,” Reinland said. “But the 3-pointer is a big part of the game, and we try to take advantage. We do recruit shooters.”
Gabe Porter led the Warriors with 23 points. Tournament most valuable player Landon Radliff had nine points, six rebounds and five assists.
“Before the game, (Reinland) told us that it’s been 38 years since Walla Walla won the title,” Radliff said. “A lot of people back home have been waiting for this. It feels great to bring back the trophy.”
Tacoma finished the regular season with a 15-13 record and entered the NWAC tournament with a No. 4 seed. The Titans reeled off three straight wins, including a first-round victory over top-ranked North Idaho, to advance to the championship game.
Khalil Thompson led Tacoma with 15 points Sunday.
“We came into the tournament feeling like we could beat anybody,” Titans coach TJ Caughell said. “We usually play better as an underdog with a chip on our shoulders. The last three wins were so emotional, and we may not have had a lot left in the tank today.”
Spokane 76, Walla Walla 73 (OT)
Spokane and Walla Walla tied for the East Region championship, splitting their two regular-season contests. It wasn’t a surprise that Sunday’s game was a close one.
The Sasquatch, up by 18 at one point, were pushed to the brink by a furious Walla Walla rally.
“It was stressful,” said Spokane’s Brianna King, who scored 31 points Sunday and was named the tournament’s most valuable player. “We didn’t want it to be that close, but we were still able to get the win. When they came back, we knew we had to come back at them.”
Walla Walla outscored the Sasquatch 23-7 in the third quarter to cut Spokane’s advantage to 50-49.
The Warriors took a 57-54 lead early in the fourth period, but the Sasquatch went on a 10-0 run to take a 64-57 lead. Walla Walla responded with seven straight points, all from Cierra Jo McKeown, to tie the contest at 64-64 with one minute remaining.
Spokane took the lead for good in overtime on a jumper by Imani Guillory with 48 seconds left.
“We’ve got seven sophomores, and our experience is one of the reasons why we won,” Johnson said. “We made some huge free throws at the end. And in my 32 years of coaching, I can’t remember a better open-court player than Brianna King.”
McKeown finished with 39 points to lead the Warriors.
“Cierra always has big games in big games,” Walla Walla coach Bobbi Hazeltine said. “In the first half, we didn’t give her enough support. In the second half we got some other players going, and we chipped away. We had chances to win at the end. That’s what hurts the most.”