KENNEWICK – If there’s one thing Mike Burns stresses for his team’s defense, it’s high hands.
It worked for the Community Colleges of Spokane men on Friday – they were in the faces of Clackamas CC all night. Holding the Cougars to just 30.9 percent shooting, the Sasquatch cruised to a 78-50 victory and earned a berth in the NWAACC semifinals today.
“Especially in the first half, I thought our defense was really exceptional,” CCS head coach Burns said. “They’re a very solid basketball team, and … we did a hell of a job guarding them in the first half.”
The top-seeded Sasquatch (29-1) opened on a 15-2 run to quickly take the wind out of the Cougars’ sails. They rarely gave second-seeded Clackamas (18-13) a good look at the basket and forced eight turnovers in the 15 minutes it took to gain a 20-point lead.
At halftime, Clackamas had just eight field goals in 26 attempts, and only one from beyond the 3-point arc.
“They just dribble a lot,” CCS guard Jordan Gregg said of Clackamas. “That’s pretty much the only challenge.”
Not all that challenging. The Sasquatch had 11 steals and forced the Cougars into 20 turnovers. The only statistic CCS didn’t dominate was rebounds, tallying 39 to Clackamas’ 41.
Jon Clift did his part. In addition to 12 points, the guard grabbed five boards, had six assists and accounted for three of the Sasquatch’s steals.
“Jon Clift’s the heart and soul of this basketball team,” Burns said. “When we need a big play made, he’s the kid who steps up for us. He’s a very gutsy performer.”
But for Clift, the victory was a team performance.
“We played a lot more relaxed, played a lot more like ourselves tonight than we did last night,” Clift said.
The Sasquatch men said they felt nervous heading into the first game of the NWAACC tournament, and played that way in the first half of their Thursday victory over Everett CC. None of those jitters crept into their quarterfinal game against Clackamas.
Spokane was composed, waiting for clean looks and hitting 46.8 percent of their shots. With four players in double digits – Clift, Gregg (16), Matthew Dorr (10) and Kyle Turpin (10) – the Sasquatch’s domination was on both ends of the court.
Spokane sealed the deal with a 20-2 run midway through the second half, opening its lead to 29.
The Sasquatch play Southwest Oregon CC (22-9) today at 8 p.m. in the semifinals. The winner moves onto the NWAACC championship game on Sunday.
“(There’s) no more pressure anymore,” Clift said in reference to his team’s record. “All the teams left – it doesn’t matter, their wins-losses before this. We’re all here.”
Spokane 60, Lower Columbia 35: The CCS women also crushed their opponent – Lower Columbia CC – to qualify for today’s semifinal. They will play defending two-time NWAACC champion Lane CC (28-3) at 6 p.m.
The third-seeded Sasquatch (21-7) held the top-seeded Red Devils (22-7) to 23.1 percent shooting, immediately gaining a comfortable lead on a 19-4 game-opening run.
“We just destroyed them defensively,” CCS head coach Bruce Johnson said. “They couldn’t shoot, and we did a good job of manning and mixing up our defenses a little bit, a bit of zone.”
CCS forward Kellee Neal led her team with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting. Ashlee Michelson – playing with the flu – and Kelsey Stillar each added nine points, closely followed by point guard Ren Mallory with eight.
Michelson, Spokane’s leading scorer, went down and hurt her right knee when she helped force a Sasquatch steal with 10:30 left. Her status was up in the air for the semifinals, Johnson said.
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