Story: Austin Druse
Photos: McKenzie Wedel
Video: Jordan Brown
Southern Oregon started off with a 16-3 run in the first six minutes, and shot 6-9 from the floor in that span. Clarke was forced into two timeouts before the four-minute mark in the first quarter.
“The initial start really helped us. You get into a tournament game where nobody has really been on the floor yet, you got those ‘first-game jitters,’ for us to see a few shots go through helped settle us down,” Southern Oregon head coach Alex Carlson said.
Clarke’s second quarter proved to be much more productive than its first. The Crusaders cut the lead to ten midway through the second, and the Raiders led 33-23. However, that run was cut short, as the Raiders reestablished their half-court pressure. After two quarters, the Raiders had forced 17 Clarke turnovers and scored 11 off of those turnovers. Southern Oregon led 46-28 at the break.
Autumn Durand provided boots for the Raiders in points, rebounds and assists. The junior forward tallied 14 points on 6-8 from the floor, three rebounds and two assists in the first half. She finished with 21 points on 9-14 from the floor, 2-3 from 3-point range and 11 rebounds on the day.
“I’m happy with [the performance], I mean, you gotta be happy with it, I guess,” Durand said. “My teammates were just finding me really well, I guess. I shot the ball well.”
The Raiders didn’t just find Durand for open look, as they finished with 22 assists as a team. Senior guard Ashley Claussen led the charge in the dimes department with five.
Southern Oregon now owns nine appearances in the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship, with 2016 being its second since 2009. The Raiders have a 7-8 record in the tournament after today’s match.
The Crusaders have just one previous appearance in the championship (2015). Last season, they lost to then No. 1 Davenport 78-48 in the first round.
“We gotta focus on ourselves, they do a lot of things well. . . they pressure the ball well,” Carlson said. “I think you’ll see two teams that can handle pressure, that will really get after it. . . it should be a high-scoring, fun game.”