With the recent loss of leading scorer Tywanna Abbott to a season-ending knee injury, the Lower Columbia College Red Devils must step up their game in defense, ball movement and, of course, scoring.
Eighth-ranked LCC (22-8) plays ninth-ranked North Idaho (19-9) in the opening round of the NWAC Women’s Basketball Championships at noon Thursday at Everett College. A victory would propel the Red Devils into a quarterfinal matchup with either seventh-ranked Bellevue or Mount Hood at 4 p.m. Friday, while a loss would end their season.
Abbott, an NWAC West Region first-teamer, averaged 15 points and 6.8 rebounds before suffering her injury on Feb. 24 at Highline.
“We’re going to move Kenya Lorton from the bench into the starting lineup, and move Nizhoni Wheeler to the bench,” LCC coach Chad Meadors said. “’Zhoni came off the bench for most of this season, so it’s nothing new for her.”
Lorton averaged 11.1 points, and Wheeler averaged 12.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per outing.
Also for the Devils, Hayley Niles averaged 11.5 points and 7.7 rebounds, and West Region first-teamer and all-defensive team pick Cherita Daugherty averaged 8.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.1 steals. Region second-teamer Shanay Dotson averaged 11.4 points and 6.1 rebounds, and Madison Crews averaged 9.2 points, 5.2 assists and 4.9 rebounds.
After Wheeler, the Devils’ bench has guard Jaden Howard (1.7 points), and forward Nina Bailey (0.8 points).
“Jaden and Nina will have to provide us with quality minutes,” Meadors said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to contribute, and they seem eager to do that. The key will be for them to stay within themselves.”
While the Devils’ offense took a hit with Abbott’s injury, their defense continues to keep them in games, allowing 59.9 points per game.
“When we started the season the defense was slow to develop,” Meadors said. “Now, it’s the strength of our team. We can’t afford to foul, and we’ll have to make some adjustments. We’ll have more zone early, and we’ll open up the possibilities in the second half if there’s no foul trouble.”
The Red Devils are very familiar with North Idaho, having lost to the Cardinals 74-63 on Dec. 17, and a 62-57 setback on Dec. 29 in the LCC Holiday Classic.
“North Idaho has some really good guards who can shoot, trap and zone press both fullcourt and halfcourt,” Meadors said. “In both games, we had scoring droughts where we were afraid to score after seeing the same looks multiple times.”
The Cardinals ranked fifth in scoring (78.8) and 25th in points allowed (70.0). East Region first-teamer Cierra Dvorak averaged 14.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.4 steals, and Whitney Meir led the team at 15.0 points. Ronnie Harris placed on the region’s all-defensive team while averaging 12.4 points, and Sydney Hovde averaged 10.2 points and 8.9 rebounds.
“We have to make sure we move the ball and continue to score,” Meadors said. “Most of all, we have to go out and play, and take every shot presented to us.”