Their record says 8-4, but coach Carl Howell would have you believing his Tacoma CC Titans are closer to undefeated.
Like 2-0 at full strength.
With early injuries apparently behind them, the Titans opened NWAACC West Division play Saturday with an impressive 80-68 victory over fifth-ranked Pierce College in Tacoma.
And even though the Titans had arguably their best 10-minute stretch offensively by hitting 12 of 19 field goal attempts, including 4-of-6 on 3-pointers to stake themselves a 41-18 lead, Howell pointed to the team’s defensive effort as the real gem.
Pierce was averaging a division-leading 92 points per game, using a frenetic pace to get the passes up the court and attack defenses when they were not settled.
But TCC got back comfortably enough, and made the Raiders try to earn baskets in controlled sets.
“It was getting back, and then it was the team defense from there,” Howell said. “We got our hands on a lot of basketballs on second and third rotation.”
After TCC scored on its first possession, Pierce roared back quicker than the blink of an eye – and Gary Jacobs was fouled on his dunk attempt.
But he missed both free throws, and Pierce (8-4 overall, 1-0 in NWAACC West) did not score its first field goal until the 15:07 mark as TCC started 9-0.
“It’s been a big difference having all our guys back, and we have stepped up our practice intensity,” TCC guard Josh Lord said.
Now it is Pierce (9-4, 1-1) that will need to shake the injury bug. Point guard John Palmer (back) is just getting back in form, and shooting guard Blayne Clanton (wrist) will miss most of January.
Pacific Lutheran 75, At Linfield College 61: Cameron Schilling led the Lutes to a road victory in McMinnville, Ore., scoring a team-high 17 points, connecting with four shots beyond the three-point line. The Lutes are 4-9 on this season with a 2-2 Northwest Conference record.
The Lutes out-rebounded the Wildcats on the night. Schilling finished with seven boards and Cole Parker (12 points) grabbed eight off the bench.
At Tacoma CC 65, Pierce 61: Last season, the Raiders locked up TCC in two meetings with full-court zone pressure. But with six returning sophomores, the Titans were in better position to handle it this time around – barely.
TCC’s Angie Sanchez tallied 11 of her team-leading 16 points in the first 5:53 of the second half as the Titans (5-4, 1-1 NWAACC West) built an 18-point lead – 47-29.
“We are pressing more this year,” TCC coach Heidi Collier said, “so we practice against it.”
But Sanchez fouled out with 4:35 remaining, and the Raiders (5-8, 1-1) stormed back. Alexa Goodenow had a four-point possession by herself for Pierce when she made a 3-pointer and was fouled as the visitors cut it to 62-58 with 1:28 to go.
The difference in the end was that TCC made its free throws in the final 90 seconds (3 of 4) – and the Raiders did not (2-for-7).
PLU 56, at Linfield 52: After Taylor Soloman’s 3-pointer cut it to 46-45 with 5:53 to go, the Lutes scored the next six points over the 31/2 minutes to earn a first NWC victory on the road in McMinnville, Ore. Kara Sherman led PLU with 12 points.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@ thenewstribune.com