KENNEWICK — Portland Community College wasn’t even on the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges map for men’s basketball.
Now it’s the capital.
The Panthers completed their astonishing rise from winless nobodies to giant-slayers to giants by holding off Pierce College, 92-86, in the championship game of the NWAACC tournament Tuesday night at the Toyota Center.
Portland, which went 0-24 in 2012, was making its first tournament appearance in school history.
“Nobody thought we’d be here, but we had faith in ourselves,” said sophomore guard Tremaine Channel, who was 4-for-4 at the free throw line in the last 32 seconds. “We knew if we got by the first round, we’d take it all. It’s unbelievable.”
Added second-year coach Tony Broadous: “It’s incredible. Not unbelievable, but incredible.”
After opening the tournament with a pair of close wins then overwhelming Skagit Valley in Monday’s semifinals, the Panthers (23-9) took on a Pierce team also seeking a first title.
The Raiders (23-7) mounted a series of furious charges in the second half, but Portland was unflappable, inhaling each run, exhaling a poise and tenacity belying its lack of tournament pedigree.
Channel gave Portland its biggest second-half lead with a 3-pointer with 10 minutes, 40 seconds left, but the 10-point lead was transient. The Raiders went on a 10-3 run to close to 70-69 with 5:47 to play.
During one frenetic sequence, the foes traded baskets on eight consecutive possessions.
The Panthers’ Josh Turner was named Most Valuable Player after scoring 23 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
“Give all the credit to Portland,” Pierce coach Bill Mendelson said. “They hit some big shots. They did a great job.”
Pierce’s Chris Parker (18 points) and Gary Jacobs (13 points, seven rebounds and six assists) were named all-tournament for the Raiders.