On Tuesday evening, the Southern Oregon University women’s basketball team took the next step in claiming their first regular season conference title in 8 seasons. In front of a packed Mountain Avenue Gymnasium, the lady Raiders stormed back from a nine-point halftime deficit, to triumph over rival Oregon Tech 71-64.
The first half was one to forget for SOU, as the high-scoring Raiders put up just 22 points, their lowest on the season. Head coach Alex Carlson said OIT did things well, but it was more about his team not finishing easy buckets and missing free throws. They shot 9-32 overall, 2-9 from three, and 4-13 from the free throw line. OIT’s leading scorer Ashlei Vandenbrink lit it up from 3-point range for 11 points.
In the third quarter, the lady Raiders got back to the way they’ve played all season – forcing turnovers and shooting well. The real story though was junior forward, Autumn Durand. She just took over the game. In a minute and a half period, Durand scored 8 straight points to pull the Raiders within one. She scored 14 of her 22 in the second half.
According to Durand, she gave the team the spark they needed, “Well I knew that we had to do something. We had to come out with energy [in the third] – coach talks about that a lot… So I feel like someone had to step up and I guess it was just me today.”
Toria Bradford’s three-pointer with 4:24 in the third gave the Raiders the lead for good. Bradford ended up with 10 for the game. The fourth quarter was back-and-forth, but the game was never in question. Seniors Ashley Claussen and Carly Meister also stepped up in the second half, scoring 9 and 8 respectively after combining for just 5 in the first half. SOU held Vandenbrink to just three points in the second half.
Following the game, coach Carlson had some high praise for Durand. “She’s unbelievable. She could be the most complete player in the league, because she can do so many things… We kind of challenged her at the half… and she stepped up like the all-league player that she is.”
With the win, the lady Raiders move to 22-1 overall and 15-1 on the season, setting up a huge matchup Saturday against Eastern Oregon, the only team to defeat them this season. With a win in that game, and Sunday’s game against College of Idaho, SOU can clinch the regular season conference title and an automatic birth to the NAIA tournament.
Durand, for one, is excited for the opportunity to avenge the early season defeat, “It’s revenge, it’s all revenge at this point. We know we’re going to win, we have that mindset, we have that determination. It’s gonna be a good game.”
Follow Sports Editor Michael Brock on Twitter @mbrock03 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.