When basketball teams meet each other four times in a season, the little things turn out to be really big.
That was the case Tuesday night at the Toyota Center, when Lane freshman guard Renee Lucero found a wide-open spot at the 3-point arc with time running down.
As teammate Kersey Wilcox looked for a path to the basket, Lucero slid to her left as her defender lost track of her.
Wilcox dished the ball out to Lucero, who sank a 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds remaining to give Lane a 51-49 victory over South Region rival Clackamas in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges women’s basketball championship game.
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“This never gets old,” said Lane coach Greg Sheley, who won his fourth title in the last eight years as the Titans’ coach. “We knew it would be a tight contest tonight. And it looked bleak for a while there.”
Sheley was referring to Clackamas guard Sade Elliott sinking a trey with 2:50 remaining to give the Cougars a 48-42 lead.
It wasn’t a big lead, but in this contest, it loomed large.
“I thought offensively we would both make a few more shots,” said Clackamas co-coach Jim Martineau, whose team lost to Lane for the third time this season. “It was a defensive battle.”
But post player Megan Shields responded with a basket for Lane, and after a 24-second shot-clock violation by Clackamas, Lucero cut the Cougars’ lead to 48-46 with a basket with 1:10 left.
Then up stepped Wilcox.
She stole the ball at halfcourt and made a driving layin with 40.9 seconds remaining to tie the score at 48.
“She’s third in the NWAACC in steals,” Sheley said. “She timed it just right.”
Wilcox was almost desperate at that point.
“I knew we were down, so it was all or nothing right there,” Wilcox said.
Clackamas turned the ball over on the ensuing possession with 21.6 seconds left, setting the stage for Lucero’s winning shot.
“We were looking to get the ball inside to Megan,” Sheley said. “If that didn’t work, maybe Kersey could draw (a foul), or Renee could slide over.”
Wilcox twice tried to drive the lane, but a Cougar defender cut her off both times. Then she tried a third time, but as she got inside, she turned and kicked the ball out to Lucero, who was alone.
“I trust her,” Wilcox said of Lucero. “She can make that shot.”
“I was thinking for sure we’d get the ball in to Megan,” Lucero said. “This is just all about keeping your composure. Who wants it more? By the fourth day of this tournament, it’s more physical than anything. But mentally, it’s all about keeping your composure.”
Martineau was impressed.
“That was a big shot she hit,” Martineau said. “In a game like this, sometimes the difference is the bounce of a ball. They made a play at the end. We didn’t.”
But he also said his team played great defense on that last possession.
“We thought they’d go inside,” Martineau said. “We did a good job. But you’re gonna have to give something up when you help on defense.”
Clackamas’ Megan Feldman was fouled on the inbound pass with 2.3 seconds remaining. She made the first but missed the second, hoping a teammate could grab the rebound and put it in to tie the score.
Teammate Ashleigh Anderson grabbed the rebound, but Lane’s Courtney Walchli -- a Hermiston High graduate -- ripped it out of her hands to end the game.
Lucero finished with a game-high 15 points and was named tournament MVP.
Wilcox, who scored 13 points, and Shields were named to the first-team all-tournament team, as were Clackamas’ Anderson and Jenny Johnson, and Skagit Valley’s Sophia Baetz. Anderson also was named the tournament’s most inspirational player.
Walchli had three points while starting for Lane and winning a title in front of her family and friends.
“It’s nice because they don’t get to many games,” Walchli said. “All we cared about tonight was this championship game and finding a way to win.”
They also completed a season-long quest.
“This was our goal from the get-go,” Lucero said.
LANE -- K. Wilcox 6-14 1-2 13, Hannifan 1-1 3-4 5, Walchli 1-6 1-2 3, Shields 3-10 1-2 7, Mahaffie 1-3 0-0 2, Lucero 5-7 2-2 15, Thompson 1-7 2-2 5, J. Wilcox 0-2 1-2 1, Schmidt 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 18-54 11-16 51.
CLACKAMAS -- Effenberger 2-12 0-0 6, M. Feldman 2-4 3-4 7, Anderson 2-9 0-0 6, Wilkinson 2-9 0-0 6, Johnson 2-13 6-6 10, Elliott 3-8 0-0 9, Howe 1-4 0-0 2, J. Feldman 0-4 3-4 3. Totals 14-63 12-14 86.
Halftime--LCC 26, ClCC 21. 3-point goals--LCC 4-16 (Lucero 3-5, Thompson 1-4, K. Wilcox 0-2, Walchli 0-1, J. Wilcox 0-2, Shields 0-1, Schmidt 0-1), ClCC 9-31 (Elliott 3-7, Effenberger 2-7, Anderson 2-6, Wilkinson 2-6, Howe 0-2, Johnson 0-3). Rebounds--LCC 32 (Shields 8), ClCC 37 (Anderson 10). Assists--LCC 9 (three with 2), ClCC 8 (Effenberger). Turnovers--LCC 15, ClCC 15. Total fouls—LCC 16, ClCC 13. Fouled out--Shields.