PORTLAND — Fifth-seeded Southern Oregon stormed out to an early lead and held Warner Pacific off in the second half to advance to the Cascade Collegiate Conference women's basketball semifinals with a 71-64 upset of the fourth-seeded Knights Tuesday.
Southern Oregon's first CCC Tournament win in three years improved the Raiders' record to 22-9 and sets SOU up for a Friday matchup with third-ranked Eastern Oregon at 7 p.m. in La Grande.
Alexi Smith scored 23 points and added 12 rebounds to earn her eighth double-double of the season for the Raiders. Melissa Sweat scored 21 points, while Allison Gida, of Ashland, tallied 11.
Point guard Ashley Claussen played all 40 minutes and threatened to achieve a triple-double with eight points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
Chelsey Christensen and Tori Carroll each scored 15 points to lead Warner Pacific, with Christensen also grabbing 12 rebounds. Morgan Wolff and Nichole Jackson each tallied 11 points.
Southern Oregon scored 13 of the first 16 points of the game to take a double-digit barely 21/2 minutes into the game. The Raiders stretched their lead to as many as 15 points throughout the first half before settling for a 36-23 halftime advantage.
Warner Pacific's shooting woes doomed the Knights as the hosts connected on only 22.2 percent of their shots (8 of 36) in the first half. The Raiders also out-rebounded Warner Pacific 30-19 in the half and finished the game with a 57-39 rebounding advantage.
The hosts made a game of it in the second half, as the Knights rediscovered their shooting touch to make 17 of their 36 second-half attempts (47.2 percent) while limiting SOU to 37.5 percent shooting (12 of 32) after the break.
Five minutes into the second half, Sweat made a layup and a free throw to convert a three-point play that put the Raiders up by 17 — their largest lead of the game.
Jacki Cannon made a layup for WPC on the Knights' next possession as the hosts scored the next nine points to pull within six. A 3-pointer by Christensen capped the run to make it 48-42 with 12:37 remaining.
Claussen responded with a 3-pointer for the Raiders, but the Knights scored the next six points to make it a one-possession game at 51-48 with 10 minutes to go. Warner Pacific pulled within two a few minutes later on a Jackson jumper, but consecutive buckets by Smith and a layup by Sweat pushed the lead back to eight with five minutes to play.
The Knight defense buckled down at that point and kept SOU from scoring for the next three minutes as Jackson made a jumper and Wolff added a 3 to again make it a three-point game in the final two minutes.
Smith broke the scoring drought for Southern Oregon with a layup with 1:44 to go, and Angelica Cahee followed with a layup to make it 66-59.
Carroll hit a 3 at the one-minute mark to give WPC one last chance, but the Raiders made 5 of 6 fouls shots down the stretch to clinch the upset victory.
The win was SOU's first against Warner Pacific in the last six meetings, including a pair of WPC contests this season. It also ended a three-game SOU skid in conference tournament games, stretching back to a 68-55 road win over Warner Pacific in the 2010 tournament.
Now Southern Oregon will take on perhaps the hottest team in the NAIA. Eastern Oregon has won 23 consecutive games, going 18-0 in conference play.