The Southern Oregon women’s basketball team sit alone atop the 2015-16 Cascade Conference, claiming the CCC tournament title with Monday evening’s 85-63 victory over Oregon Tech at Ashland High School. The tourney championship accompanies the Raiders regular season CCC title clinched earlier in the season.
In her final home game as a Raider, senior point guard Ashley Claussen had it going early, shredding the OIT defense for 10 first quarter points. In fact, SOU looked in control after one quarter, forcing OIT into 8 turnovers and outscoring them in the paint 14 to two.
The Owls wouldn’t go away though, as a 9-2 run to end the second quarter cut the Raider lead to just five at the half. Claussen had 12 for the half, while fellow senior Carly Meister had 7.
The third quarter turned out to be the difference in this one, as the Owls were outscored 14-27 and the Raiders seemed to have an answer anytime OIT gained any sort of momentum. First was junior Autumn Durand, who scored 7 of the Raiders first 9 to start the half. The senior tandem was next, as Meister and Claussen scored 10 of the Raiders next 11 to extend the lead to 18 after three quarters.
SOU cruised in the fourth, but Meister wasn’t done, capping off her final quarter at home as a Raider with 8 more points. Following the game, Meister described the moment from her perspective, “Even going back to high school I’ve never won a championship, I’ve never been able to cut down the nets… [So to win it] at home, against our rivals, for the tournament championship, it’s just amazing. It’s a great way to go out.”
For the game, Meister finished with a game-high 24 points to go along with 8 rebounds. Claussen had 18 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds, while Durand had 15 points and 9 boards. Demi Sahlinger had 7 points and 10 assists.
The Raiders got to cut down the net on this night, and in between team chants for seniors Meister and Claussen, head coach Alex Carlson was all smiles, especially for his seniors. “It’s a high for me, it’s a thrill. It’s great to see this for the seniors… They work extremely hard, so for them to have this success feels great.”
With the win, the 2015-16 women’s team moves to 29-1 on the season, setting a program record with the NAIA National tournament still awaiting. The tournament will be held in Sioux City, Iowa from March 9th-15th, and as the only remaining one-loss team, the Raiders have a decent shot at securing a #1 seed in the 32 team tournament. The Raiders made it last season, but lost in the second round to Tabor, 72-65.
Looking ahead to nationals, coach Carlson says “We really have to to take it a game at a time, but I think we can beat anyone… We can go on a real good run, so I’m excited for it.”
When asked how far this team could go, Meister wasn’t as hesitant in her prediction, “We got past that first round last year, but now we’re going all the way.”
Follow Sports Editor Michael Brock on Twitter @mbrock03 or email email@example.com.