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Female basketball player prepares to take shot

Student-Athlete Spotlight | Aliyah Finch

Competitive spirit fuels Yaks’ Finch

At the start of her senior year at Chelan High School, playing college basketball seemed like a remote possibility to Aliyah Finch.

But Yakima Valley College women’s basketball head coach Robin Andrea came to watch Finch at a game in Quincy, reached out after the game, and then kept coming to watch her play more.

“He invited me to come down and do a post workout with him and just told me more about the program they were building and I wanted to be a part of that,” Finch said.

Halfway through her freshman year at YVC, Finch’s dominating performance in the post — averaging 19 points and more than 15 rebounds per game — grabbed the attention of Central Washington University (CWU), where she’s committed to continue her collegiate career next season.

“I’m loving it here. It’s a good environment for me and my teammates and a good coaching staff that’s helped us improve our games.” — Aliyah Finch

Finch has been playing basketball as long as she can remember, and while she also competed on her high school’s soccer and track teams, her passion was on the court.

“I love the competitiveness and the fast pace of it,” she says. “It’s a team sport and it’s not all on one person, I like that part of the game.”

Female basketball player with ball guarded by two opponents
Opponents have regularly double-teamed Aliyah Finch this season looking to contain the post player.

Finch is part of a young Yaks roster, with most of this year’s squad being freshmen. That came with some challenges — the Yaks dropped their first three games of the season as Finch and the team’s other first-year players adjusted to the significant step up from high school basketball — but it also helped the team develop a sense of camaraderie.

“We all just bonded together, we’re all doing this college thing for the first time together,” Finch said.

It didn’t take long for Finch to become a force in the paint this season. In just her third game, she pulled down 30 boards in a game against Clark College in the Blue Mountain Tip-off tournament. And while Finch also established herself as a consistent scoring threat, she put together one of the most impressive all-around games in team history on February 1, scoring 33 points and grabbing 33 rebounds (along with four assists, five steals and two blocks) against Treasure Valley Community College.

“It’s usually one or the other, points or rebounds, I didn’t think 30 and 30 was even a possibility,” Finch said. “I definitely credit my teammates for helping me out. My teammates did a great job getting me the ball and coach for getting me to that point and having my back.”

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.

Women's basketball player high fives teammate.
Aliyah Finch (12) heads to the bench during a pause in a game.

Finch first caught the attention of CWU in late October during a scrimmage with the Yaks.

“I really credit coach [Andrea] for helping me develop my post moves,” said Finch. “Central has a successful program and I want to be a part of that wherever I go.”

Continuing her playing career at CWU also is a match for Finch’s interest in pursuing a career in craft brewing, as the university offers a bachelor’s degree in the subject.

“In Chelan there’s a bunch of wineries, but I always hear people complaining about there being no breweries,” she said.

Finch has long been interested in science and has been involved in FFA and FHA since fourth grade.

“I did some research and everything sounds awesome about craft brewing,” Finch said. “It connects science and agriculture. I love the idea of being able to work for myself and have that independence in creating something.”

While Finch will only play a single season at YVC, she’s written her name in the record books for the women’s basketball program and is glad for the experience.

“I’m loving it here,” she said. “It’s a good environment for me and my teammates and a good coaching staff that’s helped us improve our games.”