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Wenatchee Valley beats Umpqua 74-70 in NWAC Tournament title game

March 18, 2019
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Umpqua's Sienna Riggle (10) and Darian Mitchell (52) attempt to stop Chasity Spady of Wenatchee inside during Sunday's NWAC Tournament title game in Everett, Washington. The Knights won, 74-70.

For the second straight year, the Umpqua Community College women’s basketball team came up one win short of the Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament championship.

Chasity Spady converted three of four free throws in the last 10 seconds and fourth-ranked Wenatchee Valley pulled out a 74-70 victory over the No. 3 Riverhawks on Sunday afternoon at Everett Community College.

Both teams finished the season with 28-5 records. Umpqua, bidding for its first NWAC crown since 2000, lost to Walla Walla 90-74 in the 2018 championship contest.

“It was everything a championship game should be,” UCC coach Dave Stricklin said. “It was back and forth, both teams battled. It was a great game until the last 40 seconds.”

Coach Stricklin expressed his disappointment over one call by the officials and one non-call down the stretch that didn’t go in the Riverhawks’ favor. The first came with 13 seconds left, when UCC freshman guard Cielo Gonzalez was whistled for a foul on Ashley Peralta on a 3-point attempt with the score tied 70-70.

Dave Stricklin felt Taylor Stricklin was fouled by a Wenatchee player on UCC’s next possession, and the possession resulted in a turnover.

“It’s frustrating. You’d like to see the players decide it,” Dave Stricklin said. “You want a chance to compete (at the end), and at least walk away feeling they beat us.”

Cariann Kunkel led the Knights, the No. 2 seed from the East Region, with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Kunkel made 9 of 12 shots, including three 3-pointers.

Spady added 19 points, sinking 9 of 10 foul shots. Ashlynn Burgess, the tournament MVP, had 16 points and four steals.

Darian Mitchell posted a double-double for Umpqua with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and made four assists as she played the entire 40 minutes.

Sophomore guard Taylor Stricklin, playing in her final game for the Riverhawks, had 21 points in 40 minutes. Stricklin shot 9 of 20 from the field, hitting three treys.

Taylor Stricklin finished her UCC career with 1,318 points and broke the record of 1,303 held by Heidi Buehler (2000-02).

Cielo Gonzalez came off the bench to contribute 15 points and three steals for Umpqua, but committed eight turnovers. She was 7 of 8 from the charity stripe before fouling out. Lexi Woodard pulled down eight rebounds, while reserve Grace Campbell contributed five points, three assists and seven rebounds.

Mitchell and Taylor Stricklin were selected to the all-tournament first team along with Kunkel, Spady and Lane’s Kylie Guelsdforf. Gonzalez and Campbell were second-team selections.

Wenatchee Valley scored 18 points off 19 UCC turnovers. The Riverhawks held a 44-34 advantage in points in the paint.

The Knights led 41-33 at halftime.

“We dug ourselves a hole, but fought back,” Dave Stricklin said.

Peralta hit one of three free throws on the foul on Gonzalez to give the Knights a 71-70 lead with 13 seconds left in the contest. UCC proceeded to turn the ball over on an inbounds play on its side of the court and Spady was fouled with 10 seconds remaining, making both free throws to make it a three-point game.

Taylor Stricklin missed a 3-point shot and Spady was fouled with :06 left. She hit one of two to make it a two-possession game and clinch the win.

It was another outstanding season for the Riverhawks, who shared the South’s regular season title with Lane and earned the league’s No. 1 seed for the NWACs. Taylor Stricklin was the lone sophomore on the team, as 11 freshmen could return next year.

WENATCHEE VALLEY (74) — Cariann Kunkel 9-12 1-2 22, Steen 2-4 0-0 4, Denton 2-9 0-0 6, Peralta 3-8 1-3 7, Burgess 7-16 2-3 16, Spady 5-12 9-10 19, Watts 0-1 0-0 0, Odima 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 28-64 13-18 74.

UMPQUA (70) — Darian Mitchell 11-21 0-0 24, Rincon 0-0 0-0 0, Riggle 1-1 0-0 2, Stricklin 9-20 0-0 21, Woodard 1-5 1-2 3, Campbell 2-5 1-2 5, Gonzalez 4-10 7-8 15. Totals 28-62 9-12 70.

W. Valley;13;28;21;12;—;74

Umpqua;13;20;23;14;—;70

3-Point Goals — W.V. 5-20 (Kunkel 3-3, Steen 0-2, Denton 2-8, Peralta 0-3, Burgess 0-1, Spady 0-2, Watts 0-1), UCC 5-18 (Stricklin 3-11, Mitchell 2-3, Gonzalez 0-4). Total Fouls — W.V. 14, UCC 16. Fouled Out — Gonzalez. Rebounds — W.V. 33 (Kunkel 12), UCC 37 (Mitchell 10). Assists — W.V. 19 (Steen 6), UCC 17 (Mitchell, Gonzalez 4). Turnovers — W.V. 16, UCC 19. A — 316.