There are local teams like Washington State and Gonzaga that are shoo-ins for playing in the national spotlight this season.
But for the area’s most successful college basketball team, the 27-1 Community Colleges of Spokane men, this weekend’s regional tournament in Kennewick is their only chance for glory.
Hidden away in the Tri-Cities’ 6,000-seat Toyota Center is the NWAACC basketball tournament. The four-day spectacle of 32 teams – 16 men’s, 16 women’s – will start at 8 a.m. Thursday and decide the Northwest’s champions.
The CCS Sasquatch men are favored to take it all the way. They’re ranked first – and have been all season – among a conference of 36 schools across Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. Their only loss came to Peninsula College in early December, and all but one of their victories came by double digits.
They play Everett CC – a team they beat by 20 points in late November – at 6 p.m. Thursday. Everett (20-8) is tied for a No. 8 ranking with Whatcom. (The NWAACC ranks only up to No. 8.)
CCS’ scoring leaders are Bo Gregg, 12.8 ppg; Matthew Dorr, 12.2; Jordan Gregg, 11.6; Eric Beal, 11.3; Robert Lippman, 10.4; and Jon Clift, 10.2.
If CCS keeps winning, it will play at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 7:30 p.m. Sunday for the NWAACC championship game.
Last season, the Sasquatch men were 13-16 overall, and didn’t play in the NWAACC tournament. CCS finished first in the NWAACC in 1999-2000.
The CCS women also are taking the trip to Kennewick, heading into the tournament ranked No. 6 with a 19-7 record. They play unranked Bellevue (17-11) at noon Thursday.
With tournament wins, the bracket would give them games at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4:30 p.m. Sunday for the championship round.
Last season, the Sasquatch women finished fifth in the East league with an 18-9 record. They did not play in the NWAACC tournament last year.
Losing teams in this weekend’s tournament will continue to compete through the bracket.