Experience on the side of Clark College men's basketball team

Penguins set to open NWAACC Tournament

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photoAustin Bragg believes Clark’s experience will help in the postseason.

(/The Columbian)

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The Clark College men’s basketball team heads to the Tri-Cities this weekend a little bit older and hopefully a bit wiser.

The Penguins will open the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges Tournament on Saturday as the No. 1 seed from the Western Division after a 25-2 season.

But as the Penguins head to the Toyota Center in Kennewick, memories of last season’s first-round loss in the NWAACC Tournament remain fresh in their minds.

But last season’s roster consisted of just two sophomores. This year’s squad has eight.

“We are a lot more experienced,” Clark sophomore Austin Bragg said. “It should show in how we handle the late-game situations.”

Clark’s successful season began last summer when the returning players continued to work out with each other.

The chemistry formed during those workouts helped Clark to one of its most successful seasons in recent years. The Penguins hope to keep that success going when they face Yakima Valley (16-10) at 6 p.m. Saturday.

“We have a standard that we play to,” freshman guard Dominique Giles, who leads the freshmen on the team with 10.5 points a game. “I’m planning to just keep my head clear and stick to playing the Clark basketball way.”

Guard Derek Owens will draw upon his memories from high school championship to keep his focus on what the ultimate goal is.

Owens helped McClintock High School of Tempe to the Arizona Class 4A Division I state championship in 2010.

“I know what it takes to win,” Owens said. “I think about those moments I had and use that as confidence to believe we can win a championship.”

Clark has the long trek of 220 miles ahead of them to get to the arena, as well as the path to becoming NWAACC champions.

“Our coaches do a great job preparing us for adversity,” Bragg said, who has averaged been averaging close to a double-double this season. “We’ve been preparing for this all season. We know what we want to do in Kennewick, and we’re going to give it our all to make it happen.”