Corden Drift

Corden Drift has 21 articles published.

Easy and Affordable Things to Do Over the Holidays

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    The Timber Truckers parade is an annual Christmas tradition of lighted semi trucks.

Tis the season to be jolly with Christmas and New Year’s right around the corner. Here are some fun, easy and affordable things to do with the family around the area over the holiday season:

The Festival of Lights boasts the largest nutcracker and is held annually at River Forks park.

Festival of Lights at River Forks Park– The Festival of Lights has become an annual tradition around the Douglas County area. Drawing in nearly 25,000 visitors per year, the Festival of Lights has produced thousands of dollars annually for Rotary Club scholarships and service projects since 1993. The Festival of Lights has been open since Nov. 19, and will continue to be open until January 1, 2018. The Festival of Lights has several different attractions to enjoy including the drive through light show which is $10 per car, the Holiday Village in Helleck Hall open until Christmas Eve, which is free and includes a visit from Santa, goodies, arts and crafts, and more. Furthermore, the Festival of Lights will provide wagon rides to enjoy the 500,000 lights on display. Wagon rides are available through Dec. 31 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and are $5 per person. Bring your coat! There are other “special nights” in which proceeds will go to help other causes around the area such as Saving Grace Night on Dec. 2, where 50 percent of proceeds on that night will go to Saving Grace. Another “special night” is Veteran’s Night which is Dec. 17, and admission will be free to all veterans with proof of service. For more information, go to the Festival of Lights website.

It’s a Wonderful Life will play at Jacoby Auditorium.

It’s a Wonderful Life (Live Performance) at Umpqua Community College’s Jacoby Auditorium– A timeless classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” will be performed live at the Jacoby Auditorium at UCC. Performances will occur between 26 – Dec. 17 on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday’s at 2 p.m. Individual adult tickets are $13 and children’s tickets are $6. With a group of 10 or more, tickets will be discounted to $11.




The Timberland Toy parade features local semi trucks decorated with lights.

Timber Town Toyland Parade in Sutherlin, Oregon– Every year, the people of Sutherlin put together a Christmas light parade of uniquely decorated vehicles for the holidays. The parade will take place on Dec. 16 from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. For more information, call 541-459-3280.





Donations for the toy run are accepted at Cascade Credit Union locations.

12th Annual Rudolph Run – Cascade Community Credit Union, Bigfoot Beverages, The News-Review and Brooke Communications sponsor this drive for new, unwrapped toys for local families. Donations can be turned in at any Cascade Community Credit Union location locally or at other participating local businesses. The drive will be Saturday, Dec. 16 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.



All of the $9.95 fee for photos with Santa goes to help local animals in need.

Photos with Santa – For $9.95 get a photo with Santa at PetCo, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to local organizations helping animals. Photos can be taken Dec 2, 9 and 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. at PetCo, 780 N.W. Garden Valley Blvd. in Roseburg.






UCC choir and orchestra will be directed by Jason Heald, PhD

Roseburg Concert Chorale and Umpqua Chamber Orchestra’s Messiah – For $10 per person (students and children FREE), you can listen to Handel’s Messiah at Jacoby Auditorium, Sunday, Dec. 3 at 3 p.m. Tickets sold at While Away Books and at the door.




BSCC Barrel Race Horse Event at the Fairgrounds – Sunday, Dec. 17 starting at 8 a.m. See the Douglas County Fairgrounds website for more information.


To see even more local and affordable things to do, go to the Visit Roseburg website or check out the Wikido site.

Alumni game celebrates 50th anniversary of men’s basketball

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    The men’s basketball team scrimmaged with alumni for the annual alumni game and dinner. The men’s team is coached by Daniel Leeworthy. Former coaches Rod Snook, Cy Perkins and Rich Robles as well as former athletic director Cheryl Yoder also attended.

The Umpqua Community College men’s basketball program hosted an alumni game on Saturday, Nov. 11 in Roseburg for the 50th anniversary of the program. UCC men’s basketball started in 1967 and has proven to be a successful basketball program on the court as well as helping students continue to be successful.

UCC won their first championship during the 1971-72 season in the OCCAA Tournament, a runner-up finish during the 1988-89 season, and have since won four Southern Region championships with multiple appearances in the Final Four during the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) Tournaments in years past. UCC finished third in the Final Four last year in the NWAC Tournament.

Former coach and player Donell Morgan was in attendance for the event and helped coach the alums for the game. Morgan is a proven success story coming from UCC as he was recruited by former coach Rod Snook, coached UCC for multiple seasons (2003-08) and coached the team to a third place victory during the 2008 season, he continued his basketball career after UCC playing Division I basketball at Idaho State University as well as playing internationally for five years.

The alumni game was filled with friendly competition when about 20 alumni players showed up to play against the current UCC basketball team.

UCC’s current team started fast with an 8-2 lead and never looked back, winning the game 100-77. Even though the alumni took a loss to the young guys, all the players and fans still had a great time. Approximately 100 people were in attendance for the event.

“It was really cool to get the opportunity to play with the guys again,” UCC alum Jacob Jansen said. “To see such a great turnout from the community to support the UCC basketball program for its 50th anniversary was great,” Jansen continued. “Hopefully we keep doing it every year.”

UCC also provided a free dinner for the alumni, their families and current players following the game.

“The turnout was phenomenal, and it exceeded my expectations,” UCC’s head coach Daniel Leeworthy said. “There were a lot of alumni here and a lot of families. It was fun, and it was a great game.”

The UCC men’s basketball team will start the regular season on the road versus Lower Columbia in Longview, Washington on Dec. 1.

Student athletes, athletic director, coaches raising funds through eTeamSponsor

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  • Basketball-Alumni-Game-Dinner-slider.jpg?fit=1000%2C1000
    The student athletes, their coaches and the athletic director have raised over $12,000 through eTeamSponsor pages.

   UCC’s athletic programs are engaged in multiple fundraising activities to help support team expenses. The wrestling department is running a donation campaign through eTeamSponsor.

   At this point, the UCC men’s wrestling eTeamSponsor pages have raised $5,112 and say that donations “will contribute towards expenses required for travel, team gear, wrestling room and competition equipment.”

   UCC men’s basketball eTeamSponsor pages have raised $5,180 in total.

   UCC women’s basketball eTeamSponsor pages have raised $12,300.

   Combined, all three sports have raised $22,592 at time of printing with Athletic Director Craig Jackson raising $11,381 of that total to date.

   Donations can be given by phone at (800) 986-6128 or by visiting the team’s eTeamSponsor pages. For more information to donate contact Athletic Director Craig Jackson at 541-440-7729

   The men’s basketball team will also be celebrating 50th season with an alumni game and dinner Saturday, Nov. 11 at 3 p.m. The game is open to the public and free. The dinner afterwards is exclusive for alumni members and their families.

RiverHawks men’s wrestling team opens season victorious

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    UCC wrestlers Grant Laiblin (left) and Ian Thomas (right) practice wrestling stances for speed on Oct. 30.
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    Coach Kyle Temple demonstrates break down techniques on Grant Laiblin before a SWOCC meet.
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    Coach Kyle Temple and Grant Laiblin face off in the neutral position before engaging.

    The Umpqua Community College men’s wrestling team won their first dual meet at Lassen Community College in the Lassen Invitational Wrestling Tournament in Susanville, California, where they traveled for their season opener.

   The RiverHawks were missing wrestlers in their first three weight classes 125, 133, and 141 respectively, including multi-sport athlete Grant Laiblin, who could not participate because he was competing in the cross country NWAC Southern Region Championships.

   The RiverHawk men started the 2017-18 season in Susanville wrestling against Eastern Oregon University. Unlike other sports at UCC belonging to the Northwest Athletic Conference, UCC’s wrestling programs participate in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

   After forfeiting three weight classes, the RiverHawks were forced to spot all opponents 18 points. Those additional points given to the opponent were difficult to overcome. However, despite the disadvantage, UCC still came home with several decisions.

   Wrestling at 149 pounds, freshman Kobe Olson was the first RiverHawk in nearly 40 years to raise his hand in victory. Olson defeated Eastern Oregon’s Kaleb Ballard by a major decision with a score of 9-0.

   RiverHawks Ian Thomas and Levi Summers also came home with decisions. Thomas at 165 pounds won 6-1, and Summers at 184 pounds won 8-4. The final team scores totaled 42-10 in favor of Eastern Oregon.

   “Every one of the guys that went was in their first college match,” coach Kyle Temple said. “I was pleased with our performances.”

   The RiverHawks then received their first dual meet victory in a matchup against Lassen Community College 27-12. Lassen had a similar situation to Umpqua’s with wrestlers out due to injuries and ineligibility.

   Lastly, the RiverHawk men wrestled against Simpson University. Simpson also had forfeits in the same weight classes as UCC. The RiverHawks defeated Simpson 27-6. Christian Perez weighing at 174 pounds and 197 pound Josh Hammers both raised their hand and earned their first victories of the season.

   “Douglas County has been a historically rich wrestling county,” Temple said. “We’re trying to use that success of Douglas County to draw kids to come enroll to Umpqua, and I think we’re in the prime location to really build something special in RiverHawk wrestling.”

Sports Year in Review

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    The UCC men's basketball team celebrates their victory over S. Pugent Sound on March 10, 2017 to move on to the Final Four in the NWAC Tournament. Photos provided by UCC Athletic Department

What a year it’s been for sports at Umpqua Community College. UCC hired new Athletic Director Craig Jackson in July 2016 and UCC Athletics is about to become more diverse and exciting than ever. Since Jackson’s hiring, UCC has added three new sports programs: cross country, obstacle course racing, and wrestling.

“The addition of our new sports is exciting because it provides opportunities for many Douglas County residents to stay at home and go to college while also participating in athletics” Jackson said. “Recruiting is going well and next year should be very exciting.”

If the addition of more sports programs wasn’t exciting enough, UCC’s previously established volleyball and basketball programs will surely grab the region’s attention after this past year’s accomplishments.

The UCC women’s volleyball team finished with a 28-23 overall record, earning the fourth seed in the Southern Region and a trip to the NWAC Volleyball Championship Tournament in November 2016. The RiverHawks had the odds stacked against them as their first game in the tournament was a match up against first ranked Bellevue in the Northern Region. UCC came away with the upset, winning three sets to two, and moved on to play Lower Columbia in the next round. The RiverHawks were defeated by the eventual NWAC Champion Lower Columbia Red Devils, losing three sets to zero.

The RiverHawks had four players receive Fall Academic Excellence Awards. To qualify for the award, players must be a sophomore in eligibility, have a minimum of 36 credits earned, a 3.25 cumulative GPA or higher, and must be recommended by the college. Players honored with the award were Cheyenne Chambers, Kaylee Hagadorn, Kortney Moore, and Viviana Rodriguez.

UCC also had two players win regional awards. Libero Kaysie Cornelio was named to the Southern Region First Team, and outside hitter Viviana Rodriguez was named to the Southern Region Second Team.

UCC basketball also had a stellar season. The men’s team finished with a 20-10 overall record and a 10-6 record within the Southern Region which was enough for UCC to claim a partial share of Southern Region championship and to punch their ticket in to the NWAC Tournament in March.

UCC made it all the way to the Final Four after defeating the Bellevue Bulldogs and the South Puget Sound Clippers but eventually fell to the Tacoma Titans 79-74.

UCC men’s basketball had two players named to the NWAC All-Tournament Second Team, freshman guards Grant Ellison and Ethan Betts.

Additionally, the RiverHawks had three players win regional awards. Ellison was named Southern Region Most Valuable Player after averaging nearly 20 ppg on 51 percent shooting. Ellison was also awarded Southern Region Freshman of the Year. Sophomore forward Jacob Danhoff was named to the Southern Region All-Defensive Team and was also named to the Southern Region Second Team. UCC’s sophomore center Jouvon Edison was named Defensive Player of the Year.

Furthermore, UCC women’s basketball had a season to remember. The RiverHawks earned a perfect 16-0 regional record for the first time under head coach Dave Stricklin’s tenure and finished with an overall record of 27-2.

The RiverHawks went in to the NWAC Tournament with a head of steam, coming in to the tournament on a 16-game win streak. UCC went on to defeat Treasure Valley and Peninsula to move on to the Final Four. The RiverHawks were then defeated by Spokane 63-58.

UCC had three players named to NWAC All-Tournament teams. Freshman forward Jordan Stotler was named to the NWAC All-Tournament First Team. Freshman forwards Daisy Powell and Bria Thames were named to the NWAC All-Tournament Second Team.

The RiverHawks had five members of the team win regional awards as well. Head coach Dave Stricklin was named Southern Region Coach of the Year. Stotler was named Southern Region Most Valuable Player, Freshman of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year. Stotler also broke the record for blocks in a single season with 123. She averaged 4.39 blocks per game this past season and is only 67 blocks away from eclipsing the NWAC All-Time Record of 189 set by Rylee Peterson in 2009.

Powell and Thames were named to the Southern Region First Team and sophomore guard Tasia Bilbrew was named to the Southern Region Second Team.

“We are extremely pleased with this past school year and the accomplishments of our athletic programs” Jackson said. “For the first time in school history, all three of our teams qualified for the NWAC Championship Tournament” Jackson continued. “In addition, all of the teams won games at the tournament, with both basketball teams reaching the Final Four.”

It’s truly an exciting time to be a part of UCC Athletics. Established programs are performing. New sports programs are on the horizon. So many great things have happened in just one year with even greater things to come.

“As a whole, the athletics are very well put together” UCC women’s basketball guard Alyssa Grenfell said. “The athletic director really knows what he’s doing, and he’s making the athletics bigger by adding more sports” Grenfell continued. “I think with more athletes on campus it’s going to be exciting to see people from around the region coming and making UCC more diverse.”

women's basketball
The UCC Women’s basketball team celebrate their victory over Peninsula and move on to the Final Four.
Photos provided by UCC Athletic Department

OCR: What is it?

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    Andrea Bowden, OCR coach, does pushups on the track. Corden Drift / The Mainstream

UCC will soon boast the first obstacle course racing team in U.S. community college history, a sport that can be viewed as one of the most challenging and difficult.

Obstacle course racing is comparable to military training. Practice doesn’t necessarily mean working on specific skills like shooting or ball handling in other sports, but instead, athletes train the entire body to prepare for any obstacle. Those include climbing cargo nets, crawling under barbed wire, crawling through PVC pipes, running a quarter mile while carrying a cinder block and more. The most common analogy to OCR is American Ninja Warrior.

Although OCR is a taxing and exhausting sport, it’s also seen as one of the most rewarding, self-motivating and mental-strengthening sports.

“No other sport will make you stronger mentally and physically than OCR,” coach Andrea Bowden explained. “OCR builds you as an athlete like no other sport, and at the same time builds us as partners in a race like no other sport.”

Coach Bowden has been a fitness trainer for more than 30 years and previously ran a successful small group training gym in Bandon. She is new to coaching OCR but has participated in 10 different obstacle course races and finished in first place in at least five of those races. She is Spartan Small Group Exercise and Spartan Obstacle Specialist certified. Spartan is the only recognized certification to specifically train OCR.

“I think the hardest thing about OCR is the mental game of telling yourself to keep going when your body wants to quit,” obstacle course team member William Turner said. “There’s always going to be winners and losers, but the real battle is inside your head, and that’s why I find OCR rewarding,” Turner continued. “It’s me versus my perceived limits.”

For now, UCC’s OCR team is participating in light training and getting to know one another before competitive training begins in August. UCC plans to host an OCR event this fall, and the team will also compete in the “Race the Inferno” event September 23 in Salem, Oregon.

The Riverhawks are also scheduled for the Physical Training Championship in Chemeketa this October, but the PTC is not as much of an obstacle course race as a friendly competition to see where UCC stands against other community colleges.

UCC also plans to compete in two obstacle course races in spring 2018.

Right now, the RiverHawks have four people on the unofficial roster, and UCC is looking for males or females interested in joining the team.

“OCR has given me confidence in ways beyond my dreams,” Bowden said. “OCR took an insecure, depressed, skin-and-bones woman and made her into a conqueror,” Bowden continued. “It has changed my life, and I want everyone else to experience the same amazing life transformation I did.”

The reality of being a student athlete

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    Provided by UCC Athletic Department

Life must be easy being a college athlete. Student athletes have all the friends, they receive all the glory and attention from playing a great game and some might have better relationships with professors because they’re athletes. They go to school for free because of their scholarships — at least that’s the stereotype.

And, the stereotype is that student athletes get away with whatever they want. They don’t have to dedicate themselves to anything except their individual sport; they avoid all the responsibility.

Contrary to this ridiculous stereotype, the truth is that it takes an incredibly dedicated and motivated person to be a college athlete. A lot of people don’t realize that student athletes are essentially maintaining a job while going to school.

Here at UCC, athletes train between three to six hours every day in addition to being a student. Having a job while still attending school is something regular students can relate to.

If you are a college basketball player, chances are you’ll be starting your day early because your coach told you to lift weights at 6 a.m., which really means you’ll be waking up at 5 a.m. After weight lifting, you’ll be attending class. Don’t think about skipping. If you skip, you just made the entire team run extra at practice.

After attending all your classes, there might be a little time to grab something to eat quickly or take a nap before practice. Then you exhaust yourself at practice both mentally and physically. Alas, the day is still not yet complete. It’s time for a shower, a bite to eat, and then all the homework that comes with being a college student. Hopefully after all of this is finally completed, there’s enough time to get a few hours of sleep before you do the same thing all over again tomorrow.

This is a normal day in the life of a student athlete. This example didn’t even include game day or traveling for road games.

Student athletes don’t live an easier life than anybody else. They work for what they earn.

“Being a student athlete is hard, but it’s not impossible,” UCC women’s basketball guard Tasia Bilbrew said. “The most important thing about being a student athlete is time management,” Bilbrew continued. “Your sport is your job, and you have to do what you have to do to get your job done efficiently,” Bilbrew stated. “The most important thing though is being a student before an athlete. School always comes first.”

For some people, sports come naturally. Unfortunately, not everyone can be LeBron James, so most college athletes work incredibly hard to get to the level they’re at. A lot of athletes don’t even get a full scholarship to go to school. Financial aid is not always guaranteed, which leads to student loans or paying for school themselves.

“Yes, athletes get scholarships, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have expenses outside of school,” Bilbrew explained. “I couldn’t even imagine the struggles athletes go through who don’t get scholarships,” Bilbrew said. “They have to pay out of pocket or use loans or financial aid to pay for schooling and, even then, sometimes that’s not enough.”

What’s even more impressive are the athletes who maintain this lifestyle and still excel in the classroom. “The key to success is the ability to manage your time and to stay on top of all of your responsibilities and requirements,” UCC Athletic Director Craig Jackson said. “One thing that I would like people to know is that on average, student athletes are very diligent students and their GPA is generally higher than the rest of the student body.”

UCC men’s basketball guard Ethan Betts commented on the experiences that come with being a student athlete: “It was hard to get used to at first. It’s definitely difficult managing time between basketball and school.” Betts elaborated further saying, “I can’t say that I’m going to do three hours of studying before bed if I’m not really going to do that. I had to be realistic with myself. I had to come up with a schedule that I knew I could hold myself accountable for.”

Through strenuous dedication, both Betts and Bilbrew helped lead their respective teams into the Final Four in the Northwest Athletic Conference championship tournament this past March.

Student athletes choose to lead a difficult life. Multiple reasons can be given as to why it’s so difficult to reach the highest level in sports, but it’s not impossible.

Students interested in participating in RiverHawk sports can go to to find scoreboards, schedules, player profiles, RiverHawk films of games and social media posts from the UCC sports department.

“Being a student athlete is hard, but it’s not impossible,” —Tasia Bilbrew,

UCC women’s basketball guard

Despite loss to Chemeketa, Riverhawks tournament bound

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men basketball

The UCC men’s basketball team lost a closely contested game against the Chemeketa Storm 81-78 Wednesday, March 1 in Roseburg, Oregon. Although the Riverhawks couldn’t get the win against the Storm, UCC finished the season well enough to earn a share of the Southern Region Championship and an opportunity to play against the Bellevue Bulldogs in the NWAC Tournament in Washington.

“I told the guys in the locker room that I’m very proud of this team and their effort,” head coach Daniel Leeworthy said. “I think we’ve got a team that’s built for a big run in the playoffs,” Leeworthy continued. “I told the guys it’s 0-0 no matter where we’re seeded, we’re all battle tested, and we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”

The matchup between the Riverhawks and the Bulldogs should be interesting to watch. Defense should tell the tale of this game. Bellevue’s defense comes into the tournament only allowing 73.1 points per game. While UCC’s defense allows 78.5 points per game, the Riverhawks will have Defensive Player of the Year Jouvon Edison on their side. Edison averages 1.93 blocks per game, ranking second in the NWAC. Bellevue will have a tough time scoring, as the Bulldogs come into the game only scoring 74.76 points per game.

Bellevue has two players averaging more than double digits in scoring. The Bulldogs sophomore point guard Jordan Muir-Keung is the team’s leading scorer at 16.52 point per game. Coming in just behind Muir-Keung is sophomore guard Taylor Freeman, scoring at the rate of 16.21 points per game on 43 percent shooting.

UCC’s offense will be led by Southern Region Most Valuable Player Grant Ellison. The freshman guard averages 20.17 points per game on 51 percent shooting. Ellison also shoots 44 percent from the 3-pt line. The Riverhawks second leading scorer is sophomore Jacob Danhoff. Danhoff scores 14.74 points per game and grabs 9.78 rebounds per game. Danhoff was also named to the second All-Southern Region team.

“Hopefully we can achieve what we set out to achieve at the start of the season,” UCC guard Ethan Betts said. “We know we have to be clicking on all cylinders from here on out,” Betts said. “We need to give 110 percent effort, and make sure we’re ready because it could be our last game.”

The Riverhawks will meet up against the Bulldogs on Thursday, March 9 at 12 p.m. at the Walt Price Student Fitness Center in Everett, WA for a chance to move onto the Elite Eight to play either the South Pugent Sound Clippers or the Big Bend Vikings on Friday, March 10 at 4 p.m.

UCC women’s basketball earn perfect regional record, focused on NWAC Tournament

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daisy pop up

The Umpqua Community College Riverhawks weathered the storm Wednesday, March 1 in Roseburg, by defeating the Chemeketa Storm 84-45. With the victory, UCC finished their season with a 27-2 record overall and claimed a perfect 16-0 regional record for the first time under head coach Dave Stricklin. UCC will now gear their attention towards Treasure Valley, as the Riverhawks will play against the Chukars in their first matchup in the Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament.


“The women have experienced a special season up to this point,” UCC Athletic Director Craig Jackson said. “To finish Southern Region play with a perfect record for the first time during coach Stricklin’s tenure was a great way to cap an outstanding season in front of the season’s largest crowd.”


UCC’s success can be attributed to coach Stricklin’s leadership. Few things are left out when discussing Stricklin’s list of accomplishments. Stricklin has an overall win-loss record of 764-168, 19 different Coach of the Year Awards, 15 Final Four appearances, two NWAC Championships, and was inducted into the California Community College Coaches Hall of Fame in 2008.


“[The women] have carried on the tradition of excellence that coach Stricklin has established over his time as the head coach,” Jackson said. “It is a run of success that is not found in very many places.”


The Riverhawks will now look forward to playing the Treasure Valley Chukars in the Sweet Sixteen of the NWAC Tournament. The Chukars finished their season 17-11 overall with an 8-8 Eastern Regional record. Treasure Valley has two players averaging over 14 points. Sophomore forward Gentry Oldham averages 14.44 points per game on 51 percent shooting, while sophomore guard Chelsee Baker averages 14.21 points per game on 40 percent shooting.


Playoff basketball is an entirely different mindset than that of the mindset in the regular season. During tournament play, it’s win or go home. Treasure Valley will be seen as an underdog, especially when consideration is taken for UCC’s undefeated regional record and their No. 1 ranked offense in the NWAC. Because UCC has established themselves as one of the best teams in the NWAC, the Riverhawks will have a target on their backs and will need to take every opponent seriously.


“You can expect some big games, along with focus and determination from all of us,” UCC sophomore guard Tasia Bilbrew said who played in her final home game against the Storm. “All of our heads are focused on the game, and we’re ready to win.”


UCC will attempt to move on to the Elite Eight on Saturday, March 11 against Treasure Valley at 10 a.m. at the Walt Price Student Fitness Center in Everett, Washington.

The madness is coming soon

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Staff share their March Madness picks

March Madness. This college basketball regular season has had no shortage of surprises. There has been six different number one ranked teams this year. Competition throughout the country has been balanced, and no team can automatically be looked at and indisputably say they’re the best in the country. But this is it. The NCAA Tournament. Where game winning shots and shocking upsets are seen almost daily. This is when the madness truly begins. Players work so hard to have a chance for this moment. When back sides get tired and palms get sweaty, which team is going to gut it out and rightfully claim the title of “best in the country?”

The UCLA Bruins are going to win this tournament. Excluding the first two weeks of the season, UCLA has spent all year ranked higher than No.15 and most of their season ranked in the top five. In a year where no team has asserted utter dominance over everyone else, UCLA has shown just as much consistency as any other team.

UCLA finished their season 28-3 overall and 15-3 within the Pac-12 conference. The Bruins are playing great basketball at the perfect moment, currently riding a nine-game win streak in to the tournament.

My main reasoning for picking the Bruins is because of the resiliency this team has shown. Back in early February, UCLA ran into an Oregon Ducks team that had won 19 of their last 20 match-ups, with one of those wins coming against the Bruins themselves. Oregon jumped out to a 19-point lead in the first half. UCLA kept fighting. UCLA kept passing the ball from good looks at the basket, to great looks. With just over four minutes to go in the game, senior guard Bryce Alford drove to the basket and found sophomore guard Aaron Holiday waiting at the arc. Holiday hit the 3-point shot and UCLA had their first lead of the game. UCLA took the 82-79 victory against the Ducks and the Bruins went on to win their remaining six games.

This team is a collective unit. UCLA has six players averaging above 10 points per game, led by Alford who’s averaging 16.5 points per game on 47 percent shooting and shooting 45 percent from the three-point line. UCLA is first in the country in scoring at 91.3 points per game and they also are the most pass-happy team, ranking first in the country, averaging 21.7 assists per game as a team.

To go along with the collectiveness and comradery of this team, UCLA also has a star in Lonzo Ball. Ball is playing at an insane level for a freshman. He’s averaging nearly 15 points per game on 56 percent shooting. Ball is snatching up 6.2 rebounds per game while also finding teammates by averaging 7.8 assists. Ball is the engine for this team.

In the end, it comes down to the team that makes shots. The team that shows the grit to make the tough layups and contested jump shots on a nightly basis will win this tournament. In my humbled opinion, with Lonzo Ball distributing the basketball to multiple scoring talented teammates and the character this team has shown to win down the stretch, I can’t see the championship trophy being handed to anyone but the Bruins.

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