As his players boarded planes for destinations across the country for the holiday season, Pierce College men’s basketball head coach Bill Mendelson brimmed with optimism.
The Raiders have put together an 8-3 overall record in non-conference play this season, and they’re looking forward to opening the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges’ slate.
“We have some guys flying to Virginia, Nevada and Alaska,” Mendelson said Wednesday. “They will have a week off, and we’ll get back to work with a night practice the day after Christmas.”
He hopes they’ll hit the gym two or three times while his players are home, because the Raiders have five conference games in the first two weeks of January.
So far, so good.
Pierce has won by an average of 30 points in its eight wins, Mendelson said, and all three losses were in close contests.
“We have to learn how to win close games and execute down the stretch,” he said. “We aren’t the biggest team, but we’re pretty athletic. We just have to get and go (on the fast break) whenever we have the chance.”
The Raiders will open conference play Jan. 2 against Grays Harbor, but they will be without sharpshooter Blayne Clanton, who fractured his hand in a game against Chemeketa on Dec. 16. Clanton likely will be out a month.
“We will get him back toward the end of the season,” Mendelson said. “Even though we won’t have Blayne for a while, we still have a solid rotation. We have seven guys who are starter-type of players. I have never had that before.
“We’ve got a great starting lineup, and the guys who are coming off the bench contribute well, too.”
Sports Editor Shaun Scott can be reached at 253-552-7002 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_shaun.