Not even the sting of an eighth-place finish at the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges men’s basketball tournament could totally dampen the spirits of Pierce College men’s basketball coach Bill Mendelson.
The Raiders went 2-2 at the NWAACC tourney from March 2-4 in Kennewick. They beat Southwest Oregon and Yakima but lost to Everett and Centralia. Pierce had a top seed after it won the NWAACC West Division championship.
“Our expectations were very high,” Mendelson said. “It was a disappointing weekend to a really great season.
“Sometimes you define your year by the last weekend because that is what you remember last, which is unfortunate. When we look back at it, we will realize what a great season we had.”
The Raiders went 25-6 and broke the school record for wins, which previously was 23.
“The kids played their hearts out,” Mendelson said.
The coach added there isn’t a reason for his team to hang their heads.
“Ultimately, it didn’t end the way we wanted it or envisioned it to go, but we won the league championship, broke a school record and placed at the NWAACC tournament. A lot of teams get there and go two losses and out. We didn’t. We got eighth place, and a banner will be going up in our gymnasium to recognize our team’s achievement.”
The Raiders received many accolades for their performance. Mendelson was named West Region Coach of the Year, Tyrell Lewis garnered West Region Most Valuable Player honors, and John Palmer was named a West Region first-team all-star.
Mendelson expects Palmer, Lewis, Blayne Clanton and Derrick Porter to continue their careers at four-year schools next year.
“A lot of schools are interested in all of those players,” Mendelson said. “They are going to get an opportunity to play somewhere and get their college paid for.”
Only two players on this year’s squad were on the team during the 2011-12 season. Mendelson said that kind of roster turnover is the name of the game at the community college level.
“We have been recruiting hard and pursuing players all winter long,” he said. “We have got some pretty good players coming in, including three potential starters. It creates a logjam on the roster if this year’s freshmen come back, which is good for competition. We’re looking forward to next year.”