Titans hope experience pays off this year

12/07/2012 19:14

After winning the South with a freshman-dominated team, hopes are high for Lane women

Published: December 7, 2012 12:00AM, Today

A year ago the Lane Community College women’s basketball team was composed of 13 freshmen and one sophomore.

Now the script has been flipped.

Not only are the top-ranked Titans deep on experience this season, they’re just plain deep.

So much so, today they will use their fifth different starting lineup in as many games when they play Green River Community College at 2 p.m. in their opening game of the Pierce Community College tournament in Lakewood, Wash.

“We haven’t had depth like this in a while,” said coach Greg Sheley, now in his 14th season. “We’ve been really good and had some great teams with some great players, but it’s been awhile since we had this kind of depth.

“Eventually we’re going to have to make some tough decisions and start going to a more set rotation and pattern. But we still have got a few more weeks.”

A perennial power in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges, the Titans (4-0) are coming off a 24-6 season in which they won 11 straight to end the regular season 13-1 in league play, securing their sixth South Region title since 2003 and the No. 2 seed in the NWAACC tournament.

But after winning its opening game, Lane lost two straight to get bounced from the tournament without a trophy for the first time since “I don’t even know when,” said Sheley, who won NWAACC titles in 2006, 2007 and 2009 and made the final four every year from 2004-10.

“That’s what we’re building on,” Sheley said. “We didn’t know what to expect last year, and I think the kids really came together extremely well. It was an absolutely amazing feat (winning the South Region), which I think gave us a false sense of security when we went over to the tournament.”

Ten players return from last season, including leading scorer Kersey Wilcox. They’re joined by a group of freshmen that, at times, has been winning the battle for playing time.

In fact, through the Titans’ first four games, it’s freshman guard Simone Thompson leading the Titans in scoring with an average of 18.5 points. Freshman guard Renee Lucero is also averaging 9.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, and forward Nicole Hannifan is scoring 9.5 points per game.

“We’ve had some great contributions from the freshmen, and the sophomores have really had to earn it everyday in practice,” Sheley said. “That is ultimately going to make us better.”

The returning group was already pretty good, including Wilcox, who averaged 15 points last season but is at just 5.8 this year as she works her way back from a handful of nagging injuries that slowed her during fall camp and have kept her as a reserve so far.

Sophomore forward Megan Shields is also averaging 13.8 points and 11 rebounds. Only Shields and Thompson have started every game this season.

The Titans will be back home Dec. 14-16 for the Lane Crossover Tournament.