LA GRANDE — With its collective back against the wall, the Southern Oregon University women's basketball team got the signature win it needed Friday night, upsetting top-seeded Eastern Oregon 80-62 in the semifinals of the Cascade Conference Championships at Quinn Coliseum.
The fourth-seeded Raiders (25-7 overall) never trailed and led by as many as 20 points in the second half, riding sophomore post Carly Meister's 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Allison Gida's 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists against the 22nd-ranked Mountaineers.
Now they need just one more win, Monday at second-seeded Oregon Tech in the CCC title game, to claim a spot in the 32-team NAIA Championships starting March 12 in Sioux City, Iowa.
"We stayed composed all night and didn't let any of their runs get to us," Raiders coach Lynn Kennedy said. "When we have everyone playing together and taking care of the ball like that, that's the kind of game we're capable of."
Kristen Schoenherr came through with 12 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, and Ashley Claussen had seven points, nine assists and four boards.
Eastern (23-9), which already clinched a berth in the NAIA Championships with its second straight CCC regular season title and has advanced to the NAIA Elite Eight the last two years, defeated SOU in the first two matchups this season, though the Raiders were up by nine points at halftime of their game on Jan. 25 in Ashland.
This time they didn't take the pressure off. Meister, after carrying the Raiders with 18 points in the first half en route to a 41-34 edge, scored the first bucket of the second. And after Tiani Bradford and Autumn Durand made two layups apiece the Raiders led 53-38.
When EOU's Brittney Newcomb scored to make it 55-44 with 13:34 left, the Raiders responded with nine straight points from five different players to take their biggest lead, 64-44. After that, the Mountaineers never got within nine points.
Newcomb, the CCC's leading scorer, had 29 points but went 11-for-29 from the field and 2-for-13 from outside. Kassy Larson added 19 points and seven rebounds.
The Raiders scored 60 points inside and outdid the Mountaineers on points off turnovers (21-8) and second-chance points (19-6).
The win was SOU's first in La Grande since 2009 and stopped an eight-game skid against the Mountaineers. EOU protected its homecourt with a 102-78 defeat of SOU on Dec. 20.
The Raiders last played for the CCC tournament championship in 2008, when they won 82-72 against College of Idaho in overtime.
Oregon Tech (27-5), which advanced with a 77-73 win over C of I in Klamath Falls, topped SOU 83-71 on Jan. 18 and 87-54 on Feb. 15.
A win would place SOU in the national tournament for the first time since 2009. That was also the year the Raiders last won 25 games.