The Southern Oregon Raiders’ dream of making another deep run at nationals fell apart in a disastrous final four minutes as 24th-ranked Northwestern upset 12th-ranked Southern Oregon 83-68 in the first round of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Championships Thursday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
The sixth-seeded Red Raiders advance to face second-seeded and undefeated Southeastern in a round of 16 game today, while Southern Oregon is eliminated on the second day of the tournament a year after advancing to the final.
“It was a close game, and in a close game when you’re missing rebounds and free throws and stuff like that, that’s huge,” SOU head coach Alex Carlson said. “Kind of where we’re at with some of the things we faced this year — on having small numbers and a little lack of size — it just kind of caught up to us today.”
The back-and-forth game featured nine lead changes and at least that many momentum shifts and appeared destined to be decided in the final minute until the youthful Red Raiders’ size advantage combined with SOU’s ill-timed shooting slump late to swing the score decisively in Northwestern’s favor.
Kassidy De Jong’s fastbreak jumper with 4:01 to go gave the Red Raiders a 67-65 lead and was part of a 16-0 run that turned a 65-63 SOU lead into a 79-65 runaway for Northwestern. De Jong, a 5-foot-10 sophomore wing, scored 12 of her game-high 29 points in the decisive run and added eight rebounds to help the Red Raiders pulverize SOU on the boards, 43-26.
Carlson knew Northwestern’s size would be a challenge but figured the Raiders’ outside shooting and pressure defense would wear down the Red Raiders (20-11) over time. Instead, Southern Oregon (27-5) cooled off considerably from outside after the break, denying it opportunities to set up the full-court press that was so effective during last year’s postseason run. After hitting 9 of 18 3-pointers in the first two quarters to take a 44-38 lead into halftime, the Raiders were 2 of 10 from 3-point range in the second half and 9 of 33 from the field overall.
Carlson said it was inaccuracy, not shot selection, that doomed the Raiders.
“It’s a make-miss game,” he said. “When you get a little hot all of a sudden it’s like, whoa, you’re a great team. And if you miss some shots, what are you doing wrong. That’s kind of how you reflect and look at it, but what we look at and what we try to do with our program is a shot-attempt thing. …It’s pretty simple math — if you put up more shots then you have a better chance. What we did with our pressure today, we had 24 more opportunities than they did. I thought we got good shots today; it just happened to be one of those days where it wasn’t falling for us.”
Senior guard Toria Bradford had 21 points, three assists and two steals to lead the Raiders, Majerle Reeves hit five 3’s on her way to 17 points and Casey Williams had five points and four steals. Cascade Conference Player of the Year Autumn Durand, also a senior, was held to seven points and four boards on 2 of 10 shooting in her last game as a Raider.
Northwestern point guard Renee Maneman had 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting and six assists, but also was responsible for eight of the Red Raiders’ 22 turnovers. Anna Kiel added 15 points and nine boards for Northwestern, which shot 57 percent from the field and hit 25 of 28 free throws.
Southern Oregon, meanwhile, struggled to hit shots, making just 36 percent from the floor and 7 of 13 from the free throw line.
“Obviously disappointed, but like we told them after the game,” Carlson said, “here in two weeks when you look back on this season in your basketball career there’s so many more positives than negatives. You can’t get hung up just thinking about this last game. They’ve accomplished a lot, they’re great kids and they’re going to be great, successful people moving forward.”
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.