Southern Oregon's first taste of postseason adversity occurred only nine minutes into its Cascade Conference quarterfinal game against Evergreen State.
That's when leading scorer and defensive pest Kristen Schoenherr was whistled for her second foul, forcing the Raiders to find another scoring option to shoulder that considerable load.
Few could predict that a freshman who was averaging less than 10 points a game would respond with a career night, but that's exactly what Autumn Durand did Tuesday at Bob Riehm Arena.
Durand, a 5-foot-10 guard from Onalaska, Wash., had a career-high 30 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, powering Southern Oregon to an 80-70 win over Evergreen State in the first round of the Cascade Conference women's basketball tournament.
The win advances the Raiders (24-7) to Friday's semifinal round, where they will face top-seeded Eastern Oregon in La Grande.
"Coming into the playoffs is definitely when I wanted to step up the game and intensify everything," Durand said, "and I think definitely the good teammates that I have helped. I was open most of the time, it's just my teammates found me really well."
Durand scored 15 points in each half to best her previous career high of 25, while Ashley Claussen added 14 points and six rebounds and Allison Gida 12 rebounds and two blocks for SOU, which dominated the paint. The Raiders outrebounded the Geoducks (14-12) 56-40.
Sammi Clark led the Geoducks with 22 points on 9 of 24 shooting, and Jessica Denmon added 12 points and 14 boards. But Evergreen State's offense stalled against the Raiders' pressure defense, hitting just 26 of 72 shots (36 percent), including 2 of 13 from long range.
Despite their offensive struggles the Geoducks were able to stay within striking distance throughout most of the second half. A driving layup by Denmon capped a 13-5 Geoduck run that cut SOU's lead to 54-47 with 10:39 to go.
Evergreen State still was within single digits at 60-51 with seven minutes to go before the Raiders started to pull away. A 3-pointer by Durand —she hit 11 of 17 shots, including 2 of 4 3-pointers — extended SOU's lead to 12 soon thereafter, and a layup by Schoenherr made it a 14-point game with five minutes to go.
Evergreen State made one final push to get within 10 on a free throw by Clark with 3:34 left, but the Raiders burned Evergreen State's defense for five layups, including two by Durand, over the next 90 seconds to blow the game open.
"We've got six, seven, eight players that can step up at any time and I think that's what's hard about guarding us," SOU head coach Lynn Kennedy said.
Cambie Edwards added 13 points and five rebounds for the Raiders, and Carly Meister nine points on 4 of 5 shooting. The Raiders survived an off day by two of their top players, with Gida and Schoenherr combining for nine points on 3 of 21 shooting with nine turnovers.
The Raiders' overwhelming rebounding advantage led to 17 second-chance points to Evergreen State's nine, and SOU had 48 points in the paint.
"We didn't do a good job in terms of blocking out and making sure we had contact," said Evergreen State head coach Monica Heuer, who is retiring after 13 seasons at the helm. "We did stop the people we wanted to stop. I thought we started off the game well and at times we had opportunities, but we weren't connecting."
Now, it's on to La Grande for a do-or-die game against the Mountaineers. It will be a huge challenge for the Raiders. Eastern swept SOU 2-0 during the regular season, winning 89-80 in Ashland and 102-78 in La Grande.
"As long as we come prepared with a good mindset, we can win," Durand said.
"Obviously, they're a good team," Kennedy added. "We've gotta be able to contain (EOU leading scorer Brittney Newcomb) "¦ and we've got to be able to play better defense. And for us, we should just create our tempo."