Tournament caps up-and-down season for YVCC

March 3, 2012 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — It started back in December, this wildly undulating series of events that presently finds Yakima Valley’s men awaiting the program’s fifth consecutive NWAACC Tournament appearance.

That’s when the Yaks lost Tomas Ogbaslassie, a 6-foot-6 sophomore who figured probably to be their best player, to injury.

The absence of Ogbaslassie and his 17.17 scoring average notwithstanding, and despite some genuinely poor performances, YVCC (16-10) finds itself opposite Clark, 25-2 and second-ranked in the NWAACC, in a 6 p.m. first-round game today in Kennewick’s Toyota Center.

And as coach Ray Funk has repeatedly said, “Now we’re all 0-0.”

Having guided Yakima Valley to the tournament in six of his seven years as coach, and having won it all in 2008, Funk has pretty much seen it all.

And that means everything from celebrating a championship to sending six players home during last year’s tournament, for undisclosed reasons, and having the remaining eight rally to claim fifth place.

“Just the nature of NWAACC basketball,” he explained.

The same statement might apply to this season’s squad.

Even the two-game losing streak with which YVCC enters the tournament has included drastically different performances.

There was truly encouraging, spirited play in a 73-72 home loss to East Region champion and third-ranked Spokane, followed by a surprisingly flat and soft performance in a 92-90 defeat at the hands of Walla Walla.

Dallin Molina, a 6-foot-6 freshman who’s been a solid inside presence, missed both of those games with illness. Funk said earlier this week that Molina had resumed practicing and figures to be available for the tournament.

“Clark,” Funk said, “is a heavy favorite to do some big things in the tournament. For us, it comes down to maximizing the things we do well and minimizing things we don’t do well.”

YVCC has been at its best in full-court, up-tempo games. Amir Royal, a 6-7 sophomore, has led the Yaks with a 17.46 scoring average while another soph, Dabrail Henton, has provided solid support.

The Penguins have placed no scorer in the NWAACC’s top 20, but Austin Bragg, a 6-8 sophomore from Longview’s Mark Morris High School, ranks sixth in rebounding at 9.63 per game while guard Derek Owens is sixth in assists at five per game.

In addition to Bragg, Clark includes 6-10 Blake Bowen and 6-7 Durham Rosser of Vancouver’s Skyview High, plus 6-6 Devon Kiser of Glacier Peak in Snohomish.

“They’re tall and they’re long,” Funk said. “It will be a challenge for us, to say the very least.”

The 16-team, double-elimination tournament runs through Tuesday.

Filed under All, YVCC Basketball (M)

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