Buchan: WWCC men greet dawn's early light

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WALLA WALLA - It's Jeff Reinland's opinion that breakfast and basketball do not enhance one another.

That said, the Walla Walla Community College men's basketball coach accepts the fact that he's going to have to work some corn flakes in with his practice plan this week as the Warriors prepare for their NWAACC Championships opener Saturday at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

The Warriors will face one of the favorites, Tacoma, in the tournament's opening game at 8 a.m. Walla Walla enters as the No. 3 seed out of the Eastern Region and the Titans, ranked fourth in the most recent NWAACC poll, finished second behind No. 2-ranked Clark in the West.

"Basketball is not designed to be played at 8 in the morning," Reinland said. "It just makes everything different, and who knows how guys are going to react. It will be interesting to see.

"This is all new to me," he added. "And it throws a monkey wrench into everything that we try to do."

For starters, Reinland said, he is holding his practices this week at 6 a.m. in an effort to accustom his players to Saturday's sunrise scenario.

"We're going to have them out on the floor before they go to class," the coach said.

And even though the Toyota Center is just an hour's drive from the WWCC campus, Saturday's early tip will require the Warriors to spend Friday night in the Tri-Cities.

"Normally we don't stay over at the tournament," Reinland said. "But because of this early start, we are going to have to."

And if Walla Walla loses Saturday, it will find itself in another 8 a.m. loser-out game on Sunday. And that would mean a second straight night in a motel.

However, if the Warriors can get past the Titans Saturday morning, their schedule will improve dramatically. Walla Walla will then face the winner of Saturday's Mount Hood-Shoreline game Sunday at 2 p.m. And even more importantly, the Warriors would avoid the two-and-out misfortune they endured in last year's tournament.

The Warriors will be making their 11th appearance in the tournament in Reinland's 19 years as the head coach. Walla Walla has reached the semifinals three times during his tenure but never the championship game.

And as far as the coach is concerned, there is no added pressure for his team to take that next step.

"I don't think like that," Reinland said. "Men's basketball at this level has gotten to the point where it is so competitive, and we're doing it with basically kids from Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

"You look around and there are a lot of Las Vegas kids in the league. Kids from Texas and from foreign countries. We are all about developing players and getting them a good education and competing as well as we can."

Which is not to say Reinland wouldn't like to win a championship. Or that he believe his team doesn't have what it takes to win it all.

"Naturally I would like to win it," he said. "And this team I have is a funny team. We can get beat by any team on our schedule, but we can also beat any of those teams. We're just not going to be a huge favorite in any of these games.

"At the end of the day, there are certain things that we are not going to do as long as I am doing them," Reinland concluded. "I think we have a great formula. We are extremely competitive with great kids to coach who are good representatives in the community and on the college campus. And that's how we are going to do it."

Even when they still haven't rubbed the sleep out of their eyes.

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