Both the UCC Riverhawks men’s and women’s basketball teams won their final home games against Clark College on Saturday, Feb. 27. The men’s team defeated Clark (12-3) with a final score of 84-79, while the women bested Clark (9-6) by a score of 79-64.
The women ended the year at 12-4 in division with 24-6 overall, the third best winning percentage in the Northwest Athletic Conference. The women’s team dominated Clark throughout the February 27 game, in a style indicative of their entire season.
The Clark College win put the men’s team at 8-8 in division and 15-13 overall, but the team could not rally to the playoffs.
The men’s season was plagued by the inconsistency of highs and lows, of promising victories and traumatic defeats. In order to qualify for playoffs, the Riverhawks needed a win Saturday, as well as for Clackamas (19-10) to defeat Chemeketa (18-11), but unfortunately Chemeketa won, destroying the men’s chance of making the playoffs. The Riverhawks, however, were able to end the season on a high note, defeating what was the third best team in the NWAC.
Building off of last year’s stellar efforts, which saw a freshmen-heavy team go 19-11, coach Daniel Leeworthy saw promise for the current season before it began.
“We did great things, and we returned many of our players from last year,” Leeworthy said. “We had high expectations heading into this year. Unfortunately, it’s been a rocky road this season for more reasons than just one.” Close losses to Lane, Portland Community College and Clackamas were games Leeworthy pointed out as being winnable. The October 1 shooting had an effect on the players too, as some were in class at the time of the event.
Leeworthy indicated that his goal this year, as with every year, was not just to win championships, but to also create fine students and men from the players he coaches. Accomplishing the latter is why Leeoworthy believes this season to be somewhat successful. “But, I always say that I didn’t want to be defined by adversity, but by how we overcome adversity,” Leeworthy said. “We’ve done that to a certain degree, but it’s had a huge impact on us emotionally.
Despite the challenges facing the team all season, they had been in the top four of the Southern Region of the NWAC all year, and only lost two games by more than six points.
All these are building blocks to an improved 2016-17 season. “The goal will be the same of winning the South Region Championship and then to win the NWAC Championship,” Leeworthy said. “But our sophomores have done a great job.”
Leeworthy, who is already deep in the reviewing of over 500 high school players for recruitment, sees his objectives for next season as getting better defensively and to create a more athletic, versatile team.
On the women’s side, their season has seen nothing but highs and a recapturing of last season’s outstanding play. Sophomore forward Anna Munn finished the season ranked first in blocks, third in field goal percentage, sixth in rebounds and eighth in points for the entire NWAC. Along with her, sophomore guard Sawyer Kluge ranked fifth in the conference for scoring, as well as ninth in three point field goal percentage, thirteenth in rebounds and fourteenth in assists and free-throw percentage.
Building off of last year’s 27-5 season, the Lady Riverhawks entered the year with high expectations and have, generally, met them. Last year, with many of the key players still learning in their freshmen roles, the team took third in the NWAC tournament. This year, the team enters as the second place team in the South Conference, behind rival Lane.
The NWAC tournament will take place March 10-13. The Lady Riverhawks will have to first defeat Grays Harbor in a regional match before returning to the championship tournament. Their game against Gray Harbor takes place on March 5 at UCC, and begins at 3 p.m.