Clark College's Bond seeks that elusive title

Clark women among favorites at NWAACCs

By Micah Rice, Columbian sports editor

Published:

 

In the motley mix of any college basketball team, some players bring championship pedigree.

Others have never won a trophy.

Nikki Bond is one of those on the Clark College women's basketball team who has not won a postseason championship at any level.

Beyond being a key to Clark's successful regular season, Bond is a rallying point for her teammates heading into the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges tournament in Kennewick.

"At one of our first team meetings, she said 'I just want to win something,' " said Clark coach Al Aldridge. "I've been teasing everybody that we've got to get Nikki a championship so she leaves here happy."

NWAACC Men's Basketball Championship

When: Saturday through Tuesday.

Where: Kennewick

First round: Clark College vs. Clackamas, 10 a.m. Saturday.

Live stats and broadcasts: www.nwaacc.org/basketball/championship/

Clark opens play in the four-day tournament at 10 a.m. Saturday against Clackamas, which beat the Penguins 68-53 in a nonleague game Dec. 7.

The Penguins rebounded from that loss by winning 16 in a row, claiming the NWAACC West Division title with a 15-1 league record.

Clark finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the NWAACC coaches poll. But any one of six teams could be considered a top contender to win the 16-team tournament.

Clark's players are prepared for a four-day grind.

"It's not going to be perfect," said Bond, a Battle Ground High School graduate. "Basketball is a game of mistakes. We're going to make those mistakes, but as long as we stay together and battle through that slump, that's what will make us different from other teams."

A sophomore, Bond is the league best free-throw shooter at 89.4 percent and is Clark's top 3-point shooter at 37 percent. She is one of two Penguins back from last year's team that finished sixth in the NWAACC tournament.

Aldridge overhauled the roster and added two players with local roots that have become key players.

Brooke Bowen, who played her freshman year at Seattle Pacific, was honored this week as the NWAACC West Division MVP. The Skyview grad averaged 17.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

Haley Grossman joined Clark after one season at New Mexico-Highlands. The Battle Ground grad is second on the team with 7.6 rebounds per game. She is third in the NWAACC in field-goal percentage at 56.4 percent.

"The team is very unselfish with our shot selection," Grossman said. "Every game, we have at least two people in double figures."

Though Clark leads the NWAACC in field-goal percentage and steals, those aren't the most important stats for Aldridge, who won six state championships in 32 years as Prairie High School's coach.

"It's just like high school, I live and die by free throws and rebounds," Aldridge said. "In all my years, those are the two areas that just have to be an emphasis."

In a cramped Clark College office, film of tournament opponents played on televisions and computers. It was a cram session for Aldridge and his assistant coaches, Patrick Trent and Ashley Corral.

But Aldridge is also drawing on his years of high school tournaments to prepare his Penguins.

"We've approached it the last week the same way," he said. "We've tried to be conscientious about practice time and cut it back a little."

But coaching can't fully account for on-court experience. That's where Bond's tournament experience will likely play a big role should she earn that elusive first championship.

"Last year, we didn't know what to expect," Bond said. "We were more uptight about it and let the atmosphere get to us. This year's team is really disciplined. That will make us different from last year's team."