There were no late-game heroics this time around, as the Southern Oregon Men fell short of a bid to the CCC tournament final by way of a 97-80 loss dealt by the Warner Pacific College Knights (WPC). The Raider “Big Three” Ben DeSaulnier, Jordan West, and Joel Spear, were missing a key component. While DeSaulnier and West each chipped in 21 and 16 points respectively, Spear was shut down by the Knights defense. WPC appeared to make the point guard the focal point of their defensive game plan, as Spear shot the ball just 6 times the entire game, and never made a trip to the foul line.
The Raiders took an early 15-7 lead with 13:36 left in the 1st half, but the Knights dominated the game from that point on. WPC center De’Jon Bowman had a night to remember, as he scored 26 points on 11-13 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds as well. Guard Taylor Young followed Bowman’s lead with 22 points and 7 assists, while committing zero turnovers. Bowman and Young weren’t the only Knights who couldn’t be stopped; as a team, WPC shot an otherworldly 62.9% from the field in the second half, and shot 57.7% overall for the game. It would seem that the Knights couldn’t miss.
“We couldn’t get them stopped,” said head coach Brian McDermott, “We shot 56% in the second half and lost ground. We just couldn’t stop them from getting to the rim.” That was evident when looking at the box score; 56 of the Knights’ 97 points came from the paint. WPC also had 22 second-chance points, compared to SOU’s 7.
With the loss, the Raiders missed out on an opportunity to avenge a late-season loss to Northwest Christian University, who beat Oregon Tech Saturday night to advance to the CCC final. Instead, Southern Oregon plays the waiting game. This upcoming Wednesday, the brackets for the NAIA National Tournament will be announced. Southern Oregon has all but locked up an at-large bid, as the Raiders sit well inside at the Top 25 with their #14 ranking in the latest polls. The National Tournament will be held in Point Lookout, Missouri from March 9-15.
The Raider Men have now gone 1-3 since winning seven in a row. In those three losses, opponents are averaging 90.6 PPG versus the Raiders. McDermott stressed the importance of defense looking ahead to the National Tournament; “We got to be a little sharper defensively, we got to be able to play multiple defenses, and being better from going one [defense] to another.”
The entire world is infatuated with Stephen Curry and his wizardly shooting, but it’s not all about the making three’s. There’s more to the game than just the offensive end. As the old saying goes, “Defense wins championships.”