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Roadrunners on the Road to March Madness

In April there will be showers. In May there will be flowers. But before either of those,  there will be March Madness. For those who can survive the madness of March there will be dancing, and plenty of dancing there has been for Linn-Benton Athletics this year. 

In November the volleyball team hoisted another championship banner, the first back-to-back championship seasons in school history. The team won a five-set thriller against Columbia Basin College. Now the attention turns towards women’s and men’s basketball.

The Roadrunner women defeated Chemeketa Community College on Feb. 18 to secure a spot in the NWAC Championship Tournament for the first time since 2008. They defeated Southwestern Community College (SWOCC) on March 1 to finish the regular season 21-6 overall – the most wins under Head Coach Jerod Gibson.

“It feels amazing, getting to experience 21 wins with my teammates has been amazing,” freshman Muriel Jones-Hoisington said. Hoisington, from Pendleton, Oregon, has made an immediate impact on the Roadrunners team. Hoisington currently averages 8.6 points a game, and sits with 90 assists on the season (12th in the NWAC). 

“The biggest change for me has been the three-pointer, the speed and intensity both offensively and defensively, you’re just at a higher pace all game,” Hoisington said.

There are some big names to watch heading into the upcoming tournament. Brooklynn Hankwitz is a third-year sophomore who leads the beaks in scoring, averaging 14 points a game. Sophomore Kathleen Hale, the all-time leading rebounder in Linn-Benton women’s basketball history, has helped propel the Roadrunners to being one of the top rebounding teams in the league. Sophomore Sabrina Albee surpassed 500 career points at Linn-Benton this year, and averages 10.5 points a game. 

The women’s team will go on to face Peninsula Community College in the first round of the tournament. Tip-off is scheduled for noon on Thursday, March 9. 

The men, under first-year Head Coach Todd Zimmermann have made the biggest leap of any sports program at Linn-Benton. In the 2021-22 season the Roadrunner men finished with a record of 4-19 overall, and 2-12 in the NWAC South Region. One year later, they sit at 15-14 overall, and 10-6 in the NWAC South Region. A dominant second half against SWOCC secured their spot in the NWAC Championship Tournament for the first time since the 2017-18 season, when they made the Final Four. 

Some key contributors for the Roadrunners this year have been TJ Zimmermann, who averages 21 points per game, ranking sixth in the NWAC. Zimmermann also ranks second in made field goals, and fourth in total points. Third-year sophomore Ayden Foster has been a pivotal piece in the Roadrunners success this year. Foster averages 15.8 points per game, and ranks in the top five in both offensive and defensive rebounds. Fourth year sophomore Tyson Parker carries more than just a stat line to his name – he has years of experience and leadership. 

“It feels incredible, especially the journey I’ve personally been through and the team has been through. I’ve been here for a few years now and there have been a lot of ups and downs,” Parker said. “Sticking through all the adversity, through all the punches, and being able to come out, has really made this season a reward to me personally. ” 

The Roadrunners men will face Tacoma Community College in the first round of the tournament. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 11.

The NWAC Championship Tournament will be played at Columbia Basin College Student Recreation Center, 2600 N. 20th Ave. in Pasco, Washington. For more tournament information, visit the NWAC Sports website.

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