KENNEWICK – Of course they were disappointed. They had just lost the NWAACC championship game.
But looking back on their 22-8 basketball season, the Community Colleges of Spokane women were able to stomach second place.
“We’re feeling good,” forward Liz Beardslee said after their 49-37 loss to Columbia Basin College on Sunday. “We thought we could get first, but we came a long ways. We had a good season.”
CBC got the championship fanfare, but Spokane got its share. Beardslee, who had nine points and 10 rebounds in the final matchup, made the women’s tournament second team. Her teammate Kellee Neal was named to the first team.
Yet the real story of Spokane’s tournament run was team captain Ashlee Michelson, the Sasquatch’s leading scorer who injured her knee Friday in the semifinal game.
Named the women’s tournament’s most inspirational player, Michelson led her teammates through the last two of their games – Saturday’s semifinal and Sunday’s final – from the bench, wearing jeans and a warm-up jacket.
“I’m really proud of our girls,” she said, immediately breaking into tears outside CCS’ locker room Sunday. “It’s so hard, but I know that we gave it everything we had. No one expected us to be here.
“And the way we came together in this tournament was something that I’ll never forget. And I know that no one in that locker room’s going to forget it.”
A third-seed coming into the NWAACC tournament, Spokane fought its way through to the championship game. But then Michelson’s absence and fatigue finally got the best of the Sasquatch.
“We played better defense on them than anybody,” head coach Bruce Johnson said. “But we could not finish and we turned it over 22 times. I don’t know where that came from. Very uncharacteristic for us.”
Spokane’s 5-foot-2 point guard, Ren Mallory, had eight points and five rebounds, but committed five turnovers – three of which came during CBC’s 9-0 run that gave them an 11-point lead with six minutes left. Johnson said Mallory simply got tired.
Guarding her was women’s NWAACC tournament MVP Nikki Depeel, who led all scorers with 18 points and six rebounds. Tournament first-team honoree Brittany Cherry scored seven and had 10 rebounds.
“This team’s really good,” Johnson said. “Hats off to them. They are the best team. They’ve got probably more athleticism than anybody else, and that’s why they won.”