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COOS BAY — The Southwestern Oregon Community College women’s basketball team finished its non-league schedule on a solid uptick, winning two of its three games at the home crossover tournament.

Now, SWOCC has a tough opening stretch in the South Region, playing three of the top teams in its first five league outings, starting with Mount Hood.

SWOCC had a bit of a layoff, getting some much-needed time off for Christmas break. Much of the roster is from out of state, as far away as Hawaii, so that time away is needed.

But the players always itching to come back soon.

“After four, five days at home they’re ready to be back,” Lakers coach Jeff Johnson said. “I don’t know why I give them such a long break. It’s important for them to see family and friends and just breathe before the start of the regular season.”

Of SWOCC’s six losses, against five wins, the Lakers were only blown out three times, all early in the preseason.

Spokane, with just one loss, topped SWOCC by 11 in early December, and Yakima Valley and Wenatchee Valley, with 11 and 10 wins, respectively, cruised past SWOCC in the first tournament of the season back in November.

“The game against Yakima was the only one where we’re not really in it with two, three minutes left,” Johnson said. “In the other games, we’ve been right there.”

SWOCC’s other three losses were by single digits, including a four-point affair against Mount Hood, which SWOCC visits to start league play on Wednesday.

The Lakers largely rely on the talents of Kuna, Idaho, native Meghan Holloman, who drives the offense with skilled and cerebral play.

The freshman is tied for ninth in the league with 4.1 assists per game while also averaging 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

Holloman had a big scoring day in an overtime win over Whatcom recently, and had 16 points and seven assists in its final nonleague tune-up, a blowout win over Pierce.

Holloway is in charge of an offense with five players averaging 9.0 points per game or better, with Jasey Ramelow leading the way at 12.7. It shows the amount of ball movement and unselfishness that can only be a boon for the Lakers moving forward.

“It’s a team effort,” Johnson said. “They’re just playing great team ball, working together. They’re willing to see someone else be successful over their own good.”

A number of players have been contributing. 

Sophomore Madison Bell, the lone returner, is the leader, guiding SWOCC through a relatively daunting early season.

Then there’s Ramelow from Spokane, Wash., capable of scoring inside or outside. There’s Abbey Neff, who wants to average nine or 10 rebounds a game and isn’t far off that pace with 7.1, good for 29th in the league.

“It’s huge having her be a great rebounding presence for us,” Johnson said.

SWOCC opens with back-to-back road games at Mount Hood on Wednesday and Clackamas on Saturday before hosting Lane next Wednesday.

Aside from the league opener, the league schedule mirrors recent years with doubleheaders on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The women always go first, tipping off at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays (2 p.m. this week) and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. 

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Sports Reporter