Path to NWAACCs trying trek for Warrior men

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WALLA WALLA — When Jeff Reinland scanned his Walla Walla Community College men’s basketball schedule the first of this month, he came to one conclusion.

If the Warriors could win their four remaining home games, a return trip to the NWAACC Championships just might still be within reach. And he was still of that mindset following Wednesday night’s 95-92 victory over Spokane in the Dietrich Dome.

“We thought that going into the second half of league, if we could win all four of our home games and get back to 7-7, we had a chance to get in,” the veteran WWCC coach said. “We have done half of that to this point.”

The Warriors, who at 5-6 in East Region play are still on the outside looking in as far as the postseason is concerned, travel to Big Bend Saturday before closing out the regular season next week at home against Blue Mountain and Columbia Basin.

“They are all very winnable games,” Reinland said. “But obviously, there are other teams in the picture as well.”

Columbia Basin, which suffered a 91-90 home-court loss to Big Bend Wednesday, leads the East with an 8-3 record. Treasure Valley, which entertains Yakima tonight, is right behind the Hawks with a 7-3 mark.

Then comes Big Bend at 7-4, followed by Spokane at 6-5, Yakima 5-5, Walla Walla 5-6 and Wenatchee 4-6. The top four teams qualify for the NWAACC tournament, and only lowly Blue Mountain, 0-10, is out of the playoff picture.

Even if the Warriors win all three of their remaining games and finish 8-6 in the East, they’ll need some help to get in.

Big Bend plays at Wenatchee and hosts Spokane next week. Yakima is at Blue Mountain Saturday before entertaining Spokane and visiting Wenatchee next week. Wenatchee faces a road game tonight at Blue Mountain and closes out the regular season next week at home against Columbia Basin. Spokane begins its push to the finish line at home against Columbia Basin Saturday.

The scenarios are way too numerous to delve into at this juncture.

“One thing is for sure,” Reinland said. “This is a year when we are going to have some good teams not going to the tournament.

“The East has always been a tough division,” he added. “But this is as balanced as I have seen it since I have been here. It is impossible to predict right now, but it is going to be interesting.”

Even more interesting where Reinland is concerned will be the physical status of freshman shooting guard Satchel Schetzle when the Warriors take the floor late Saturday afternoon in Moses Lake. Schetzle leads the Warriors in scoring with a 20-point average, but he played just 19 minutes and scored one point in Wednesday’s victory over Spokane as he nursed a sprained ankle.

“He hurt the ankle early in the second half of last Saturday’s game at Wenatchee,” Reinland said. “It was a pretty good sprain and we thought at the time that he might be done for the season.”

Schetzle didn’t practice Monday or Tuesday, but he showed up for Wednesday’s game and told Reinland he could play if needed. And he was.

“He showed a lot of grit to even suit up and play,” Reinland said. “He is a driver and a slasher and our best press-breaker, and the way he plays can be pretty taxing on an ankle. And he wasn’t himself.

“But he told us he could play if we needed him, and we needed him at the end of the game because all of our guards fouled out and he was the only guard left on the bench. I’m hoping that in a couple of more days he will be a lot closer to full strength.”

It has been a season in which Reinland has grown accustomed to dealing with injuries.

The Warriors lost backup center Tanner Cranor to an ankle injury before the season ever began, and starting point guard Eric Harr was sidelined for the season early on with a torn labrum. Then Seth Alden, who replaced Harr at the point, was forced to call it a season just as league play began because of recurring concussion symptoms.

More recently, starting center Austin Nooner has missed the team’s last three games because of a shoulder problem. And now Schetzle.

“Fortunately we have had other guys step up and develop into nice players,” Reinland said.

“I’m really proud of these kids,” the coach added. “They have battled through adversity and kept themselves alive by beating some good teams. With everything our team has gone through this year, we are just teeing it up and seeing what happens.

“If we get in, that’s great. If we don’t, we will move on to next year.”

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