The final record for the Raider Men’s Basketball team sits at an impressive 25-6. Most would say this was a great season, one that will definitely be remembered by Raider fans for years to come. However, the team, coaches and athletic department would probably say they needed a record of 27-4 to make for a perfect season.
The dreams of winning an NWAACC Championship Title were cut short on Saturday, March 2nd in the Tri Cities as the Raiders took the court for their first game of the NWAACC Basketball Tournament. The Raiders were ranked 2nd in the conference and had won the Western Division Title, with a conference best 15-1 record (best in school history). They were scheduled to take on the fourth place team out of the North Division, Everett Community College. In a very disappointing performance, the Raiders suffered a loss of 89-80. Everett played the best game of their season against the Raiders shooting over 50% from the field and hitting 60% of their free throws. The Raiders, who had a season average of shooting almost 55%, shot only 40% for the game. The Raiders grabbed more rebounds than the Trojans, led them in points off the bench and scored more points off turnovers-but it just wasn’t enough to pull out the win. The combination of Everett having the game of their season and the Raiders having statistically the worse game of theirs ended the hopes of an NWAACC Title early in the tournament. There were many long faces in Raider uniforms after the game and a new goal had to be set. With the format of the bracket for the NWAACC Tournament, the best finish the Raiders could now have was 7th place. The team had their work cut out for them getting up to dust themselves off after a devastating loss to get a top 8 finish.
Sunday night the Raiders played the nightcap game at 10pm against Southwest Oregon Community College (SWOCC). It was do or die for both teams as the NWAACC Tournament is a double elimination tournament. The Raiders were hungry for not just a win but for making a statement that they were not the team who should have been in the consolation bracket. They earned a commanding victory over SWOCC, topping the Lakers 88-57. It was a team effort on both ends of the floor, and offensively the Raiders were led by sophomores Derek Porter and his 23 points, John Palmer with 12 and Blayne Clanton who contributed 11 points as well. The Raiders were staying alive and they now had their sights set on the Yakima Valley Yaks.
The Yaks had defeated and knocked out of the tournament region rivals, the Lower Columbia Red Devils 86-74 to meet up with the Raiders on the third day of the tournament for a chance at the 7th/8th place contest. Western Division MVP, Tyrell Lewis led the Raiders to their 88-80 victory as the team began to play like the Raiders we have enjoyed watching all season long. Lewis finished the game with a double-double, scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 boards. Despite having two starters foul out, the Raiders had four players score in double digits: Lewis (22), Derek Porter (19), John Palmer (14) and freshman David Jeffries (12). The win put the Raiders in the 7th/8th Place game and matched them up with the Centralia Trailblazers. They had previously played the Trailblazers twice during league play, winning both contests, and had outscored them 136-119.
The Raiders took an early lead against Centralia that they held throughout the entire first half, at one point leading by as many as 19 points. The Trailblazers took that lead down to 10 right before halftime. The second half was a completely different story for the Trailblazers, they came out strong and put up a fight until the final seconds of the game to overcome the Raiders 63-60. Again, the Raiders were led by Tyrell Lewis who earned yet another double-double, with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Sharp shooter John Palmer was hot the first half and scored 14 of the Raiders’ points, 12 of which were from the three point line. Despite the efforts of the Raiders, they walked away with an 8th place finish.
Looking back on the season it has been quite a ride these young men have given us. Anyone who has been to a game knows how very special this group is and can appreciate all of the accomplishments they have made. Yes, we all had our hearts set on the big rotating NWAACC Championship trophy and a new white banner in the gym, however, this team had heart, topped stats in all categories throughout the conference this year and were just a flat out joy to have around, we are proud to call each of them a Raider.
At the NWAACC Basketball Banquet the Raiders were recognized in front of the conference for all of their season accomplishments. Coach Bill Mendelson, who earned his 300th collegiate win this season, was named as the Western Region Coach of the Year. The Raiders had one 1st Team Region All Star, sophomore John Palmer. Palmer is a two year Raider and has been a great leader on and off the court. He finished his season by scoring 53 points at the NWAACC Tournament. Also recognized was honors for the Western Region All-Defensive team: Tyrell Lewis and freshman Chris Parker. The Western Region Most Valuable Player was rightfully given to sophomore Tyrell Lewis. Lewis was a catalyst all year for Pierce and is arguably the best player in the conference. In 30 games, Lewis led the league in steals at 104, far more than anyone else and was 7th in the league for rebounds at 242. He was also a scoring threat with an average of almost 19 points a game and a season high of 31 points. The team was given their Region Championship trophy at the banquet as well. As a team, the Raiders went 15-1 in league. After an early loss to Tacoma, the Raiders went undefeated in their final 14 games of the season outscoring their opponents 1,147-901. This team was one that meshed well on the court, they had great sophomore leadership in John Palmer and Tyrell Lewis. The Raider bench ran deep; four Raiders averaged into double digits every game and before the tournament the team was shooting 54% from the field. The Raiders blew the league away in assists they ended the season with 661 assists (100 more than any other team in the conference), at 20.03 assists per game the Raiders distributed the ball very well this season.
All in all, this was a great season for Raider Basketball. The sophomores: Tyrell Lewis, John Palmer, Derek Porter and Blayne Clanton will leave a huge hole in the Raider line-up for next season. Their accomplishments on the season are phenomenal and deserve a huge THANK YOU and GREAT JOB!! We now look to next season where we hope to return many of the talented freshmen from this season. They have been given a wealth of knowledge and shown the path to greatness by their sophomore mentors.
Raider fans, please be sure to congratulate these gentlemen on a heck of a season if you see them around. They have done great work for Pierce College and Raider Athletics. They deserve a pat on the back for all of the work they have put in whether it is one or two years. So next time you see one of these friendly faces in the hall be sure to give them a pat on the back or a quick congratulations: Kaden Krumpos, Devin Matthews, Blayne Clanton, Cameron Clanton, Chris Parker, Kyle Emerson, John Palmer, Gary Jacobs, David Jeffries, Tyrell Lewis, Derek Porter and Braydon Kuiper.
Thank you Raiders for an incredible season!!
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