Jim Roffler and Jeff Reinland have combined to roam the sidelines of men’s basketball games in the Northwest Athletic Conference for nearly half a century. for their efforts, the duo has an aggregate 930 victories for Lower Columbia and Walla Walla colleges, respectively.
The pair have also led their teams to a combined 38 postseasons which includes 33 NWAC tournament appearances and 13 trophies.
Their friendship goes back 25 years, when Roffler was in his first years at LCC, and Reinland was the boys basketball coach at nearby Kelso High School.
“We go way back, and I consider him a good friend and a great coach,” Reinland said of Roffler. “He’s a very good game coach and I’ve admired his game adjustments. Over the years he’s been one of the most successful in the NWAC.”
Roffler and Reinland will be on opposing benches when the Red Devils (23-8) and Warriors (22-8) tangle in a semifinal game at the NWAC Men’s Basketball Championships on Saturday at Everett College. The winner advances to the title game against either Tacoma or Umpqua at 5:15 p.m. Sunday in Everett.
“I have the utmost respect and admiration for Coach Reinland,” Roffler said. “We’ve been doing it for a long time, and we approach the game from similar standpoints. Our style of play may be different, but the way we handle our teams and what we expect is very similar.”
The contest is a rematch of a Dec. 17 game where Walla Walla made a school-record 23 3-pointers in a 99-92 win in the NWAC Crossover Tournament held at Myklebust Gym.
“We were hot that game, and they were too,” Reinland said. “We led by six at halftime. They hit 50 percent of their shots, and we made 45 percent.”
The Warriors aren’t afraid of dialing it up from long distance. They’ve shot 1,130 threes through 30 games (37.6 average per game), which is 215 more than the next closest team in the conference. Walla Walla has made 36 percent of its treys, 410.
“Our strength is our guards and perimeter shooting,” Reinland explained. “Our inside game has got better and we’ve had had a lot of great post players through the years, but it’s the 3-ball which stands out so much.”
In their previous tournament games against Pierce and Whatcom, the Warriors were a combined 18-63 from outside the arc.
“Against Pierce we took 22, which is low,” Reinland said. “We only made four and still won. We can grind with anyone.”
During the season, the Warriors had the fourth-best offense at 90.2 points per game, and are atop the tournament stats at 84.5. By contrast, LCC was 23rd in scoring at 78.3 during the season, and have upped their output to 83.0 per game in the postseason.
“We are certainly playing our best ball now,” Roffler said. “When we played them before, we stayed in our man defense so we could learn it. If we would’ve played zone and worked at it, we would’ve won the game, but wouldn’t have learned from it.”
Sophomores Gabe Porter (23.5), Caulin Bakalarski (20.5), Dalton Thompson (15.2) and freshman Landon Radliff (11.5) are all guards, and keys to the Warriors’ offense.
“Their system is unique and we know what to expect,” Roffler said. “We’ve got a good feel of how to defend them, but we also have to play well at the other end.”
No matter the outcome, the longtime coaches will remain friends.
“We’re old school coaches who like to do things the right way,” Reinland said. “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be coaching against in this game than Jim.”