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Female basketball player drives between two defenders

Women’s team takes big stride, men just miss basketball playoffs

While the Yaks men’s basketball team wasn’t able to repeat last year’s magical run to a championship title, the women’s basketball team showed massive strides forward during the 2022-23 season.

A year after winning a single game during their 2021-22 campaign, the Yaks women finished with an overall record of 9-17 (6-10 in the NWAC East).

“This year’s team came from all across the country with a dedicated focus to get better every day,” said Head Coach Robin Andrea. “I am incredibly proud of the way we carried ourselves each day with an attitude that we’re going to be great on purpose, rather than good on accident.”

The team was powered by the dominating play of freshman Aliyah Finch in the post. Finch earned several NWAC East Region honors for the season, including “Most Valuable Player,” “Freshman of the Year” and “Co-Defensive MVP,” and finished among the conference leaders in multiple statistical categories, including rebounds per game (No. 1 with 15.5) and points per game (No. 3 with 19.1). She was named the “NWAC Competitive Athletics Women’s Basketball Player of the Week” for January 2 – 8.

Finch’s play caught the eye of Central Washington University early in the season and she accepted an offer to take the next step in her collegiate career during the middle of the season. Joining Finch in continuing their collegiate athletics careers at a four-year school next year are Courtney Standley and Iliana Ramos.

Andrea said that among this season’s highlights were beating the East Region’s top-ranked team, Columbia Basin College, at Sherar Gymnasium and taking down East Region No. 3 North Idaho on their home court, along with Finch’s 33-rebound, 33-point performance during a Feb. 1 victory over Treasure Valley Community College.

Male basketball player dribbles in front of defender
Freshman guard Gavin Bates surveys the court in a game against Treasure Valley Community College.

But beyond those moments in games, Andrea said he’ll also treasure the memories of the team bonding off the court, such as during their Halloween practice.

“The girls dressed up, we had a costume competition and even my own sons joined in on the fun,” Andrea said. “It was a great time with lots of laughs and I will never forget it.”

The commitment the team made this season to assessing their strengths and weaknesses in order to identify where to improve paid dividends, and Andrea said the entire team is looking forward to building on this year’s successes.

“As a group, we are more skilled and in better shape than we have ever been at any point in our lives,” he said. “Recognizing that is incredibly motivating to keep pushing and keep working because you know that our process breeds success, and will continue to do so.”

Female basketball player prepares to take a shot
Freshman guard Hope Driscoll drives to the basket in a game versus Treasure Valley Community College.

Men miss chance to repeat

Following the men’s basketball 2022 NWAC championship title, expectations for the team were at an all-time high heading into the season.

However, coming into the new season with a preseason No. 1 ranking also put a target on the Yaks.

“When you are on top, every team is going to give you their best shot,” said Head Coach London Wilson. “Every individual has added determination to attack you when you are the champs. We learned that the hard way.”

With every opponent motivated to give their best effort, the Yaks faced struggles throughout the season and finished with an overall record of 11-14 (8-8 in the NWAC East), landing one spot outside of a playoff berth.

We showed glimpses of very high level basketball and athleticism,” Wilson said. “We just couldn’t sustain it for the duration of two halves.”

Male basketball player attempts layup
Freshman guard Javonte Darrett makes a layup against Treasure Valley Community College.

While the team had a talented mix of new and returning players, Wilson noted that overall, the Yaks came into the season a young team in terms of minutes played in college.

“We had a few transfers who played a year but didn’t see many minutes at their former schools,” he said. “So the adjustment to NWAC basketball was a little more difficult than they probably assumed.”

Despite those struggles, Yaks who earned 2023 NWAS East Region honors were guard Javonte Darrett, Second Team, and wing/forward Bright Kari, All-Defensive Team.

Wilson also lauded the team’s character and growth this season.

“Rarely as a coach will you have this many individuals who are just awesome young men,” he said. “We learned a lot. Hopefully, we can take away from this year many of the lessons of how to be a winner every day, not just game day, but win every day, all day.

“All in all, between the recruiting and the hype around Yakima Valley men’s basketball being at an all-time high, I would say we are still on the rise. I can’t wait for what the next chapter holds.”

Yaks on the diamond

The 2023 baseball and softball seasons are under way with regular season games scheduled through May 13. The softball team’s 2023 season will conclude with a doubleheader at home versus North Idaho on May 13. Meanwhile, the baseball team will wrap up its 2023 season traveling to Big Bend Community College for a doubleheader the same day.

Tickets are free for YVC students and employees, $5 for senior citizens and youth, and $7 for adults.