Despite losing the Cascade Conference Player of the Year, Ashley Claussen, in the previous game to a knee injury, Southern Oregon used frenzied defense and a balanced offensive attack to defeat Goshen College 84-69 to advance to the NAIA DII National Championship game. Courtney Setzer led the Raiders with 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting, while Autumn Durrand chipped in 16 points and six rebounds of her own.
The Maple Leafs usual offensive weapons were cold, as Gabby Williams led the Maple Leafs with 21 points on 9 of 12 shooting. Head Coach Stephanie Miller cited her team’s fatigue, after playing four games this week alone, and the Raider defense, as reasons for the poor shooting.
“We really exerted a lot of energy to play a lot of teams and play the way we did,” Miller said. “We played a really good team that is really good at playing a team that is good at making you play frazzled and we just really couldn’t get into a rhythm.”
The Raiders’ defense, who entering the game ranked 2nd in the country with a 7.6 turnover margin and averaging 15 steals per games, kept to that usual trend in the first half. The Raiders forced 12 turnovers in the first half, while only committing five. They also nabbed eight steals, compared to the Maple Leafs’ two.
It was the Raiders signature style of up-tempo, pressure defense that seemed to cause so many problems for Goshen College. That defense caused three Maple Leafs’ turnovers in the first three minutes and forced seven in the first quarter. They also managed to slow down Goshen’s primary scorers, holding Jo’Mani Thomas and Tyra Carver to just three and four points in the first half. Williams led the Maple Leafs in first half scoring, with 10 points, but failed to score in the second quarter.
With the loss of Claussen looming, the Raiders’ bench stepped up in a big way in the first half. Southern Oregon’s bench contributed 24 of their 45 first half points, compared to Goshen’s bench, who added just 12 of the Maple Leafs’ 34 points. Setzer shot 6 for 6 from the field in the first half and led the Raiders with 13 first half points.
Head Coach of Southern Oregon Alex Carlson credited his bench as playing a big role in the game.
“I don’t think you see teams that have so many people that contribute like we did tonight,” Carlson said. “It’s really special to be apart of.”
The Maple Leafs raised their energy level after halftime, but never got within true striking distance of the Raiders.
After halftime, Autumn Durand shot two free throws after the Goshen College bench picked up a technical foul, which put the Raiders up 13. Williams got back-to-back baskets and Tecca knocked down a corner three to cut the lead to seven near the halfway point of the quarter. Both teams traded back-to-back turnovers, before Carly Meister got an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Raiders back up 10.
Southern Oregon scored baskets on two straight possessions to go up 62-48 heading into the fourth quarter. The Maple Leafs’ made a late charge, but never got within ten points in the fourth quarter. With the victory, Southern Oregon moves on to face Marian University (Ind.) in the national championship game on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN3.
Carlson realizes the unique challenge Marian poses.
“They can really shoot it and I think they are playing the best basketball during the tournament,” Carlson said. “We only have to beat them once though. So we’re going to come out and give it our all and see if we can put one together.”