Story by Derek Langhorn and Photo by Lyric Otto

The squeaks of basketball shoes against the court, the sounds of basketballs hitting the metal rim, and the swish of the net fill the room as the Orca women play.

The DSC_1001voice booms over the crowd, saying “Let’s play Orcas Basketball!” The women of the Whatcom Community College women’s basketball team played with intensity, pace and skill that was hard for Skagit Valley College to keep up with. The team has been to the playoffs for the last two years, and they are primed to do it again this season.

Sara Bergner, the coach of the Whatcom team, said of their opposition, “Skagit is our biggest rival. They are very tough.” On Jan. 9the women played a clean, high-paced game against Skagit, and maintained a lead throughout.

Skagit could not keep up with Whatcom’s offense and pace. The Whatcom team successfully held a lead for the whole game, scoring 70 points to Skagit’s 59. With a defense that made few mistakes, the Orca victory was assured.

Almost out of breath, No. 10 point guard and Whatcom sophomore Amanda Tapia said after the game, “we really wanted to win tonight, and we put it together.” Her team goals for the season are simple: “I just want to win games!”

The team’s biggest strength is that they are very good at scoring from anywhere, Tapia said. As for the team’s weakness, she said, “sometimes we fall under pressure.”

Coach Bergner brings intensity to the court that commands respect from her players. Her presence on the court and her emotion show her love for the team, and the sport.

As a leading scorer on the Bellingham High School and Whatcom Community College basketball teams, Bergner really knows the game. After two years at Whatcom, she received a full scholarship to Central Washington University where she played basketball for three years.

After graduating from Central, she was hired as coach of the Whatcom team and got started right away. She led the team to the playoffs in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) in her first two years as coach, and brought them to a second and third place finish in Whatcom’s North Division.

“We want to make it to the NWAACC tournament,” Bergner said. “Our team has a lot of potential.”

Bergner beams when she speaks of her love of the game, her aspirations for the team and her extensive background in the sport. She said her favorite part about coaching is “seeing the girls’ progress, and watching them get better.”

Bergner’s long term goals are to continually make it to the NWAACC tournament and “hopefully get there for the third year in a row.”

Bergner said fans going to a game can expect “a balanced offense, a good outside and a good inside game.”

“We are working on our defense,” she added.

If history is any indication, every Whatcom women’s basketball game should be an exciting and high paced affair, and the competition around the Northwest is fierce. Tapia has a message to those who may not have seen an Orca basketball game. She said, “come out sometime. It is always exciting!”

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