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SOU shows off its outside arsenal

ASHLAND -- The supposed solution to the Southern Oregon women's basketball team wasn't lost on Eastern Oregon.

To stop the top-ranked Raiders, you stop their inside duo of Denise Berry and Nada Janackovic.

But with Eastern Oregon double teaming Berry and Janackovic at every opportunity Saturday night, Southern Oregon showcased another facet of its offense -- outside shooting -- and rolled to a 70-52 victory at McNeal Pavilion in the Cascade Conference opener for both teams.

The Raiders (14-1), led by former Ashland High standout Michelle Westerberg, drained nine 3-pointers and hit several other shots from the perimeter in dismantling Eastern Oregon's aggressive zone defense.

They knew Nada and Denise were tough inside, said Westerberg, and so they were collapsing on them.

And when they did, Westerberg, Wendi Lamb and Megan Winchester made them pay. Westerberg set a career high with five 3-pointers and had a game-high 17 points, while Lamb and Winchester each dropped a pair of shots from beyond the arc. Southern Oregon went 9-for-20 from 3-point land, with Westerberg going 5-for-8.

We've been consistent all year, either from the inside or the outside, said Westerberg. It's fun because whoever is open is going to get the shots.

Janackovic and Berry, who came in averaging a combined 31.3 points, finished with 12 points each. Lamb added 10 points and Winchester eight.

With all the attention Janackovic and Berry have gotten from opponents, the outside game has been crucial for the Raiders, who kept a pair of record-setting streaks going with their 10th straight win and 22nd consecutive victory at home.

We are a really balanced team, said Raiders coach Shirley Huyett. We can take it outside and take it inside. If a team is going to collapse on us like they did, we have to be able to step up and shoot outside.

Nada and Denise have scored a lot of points inside this season, but we've got three other players that are averaging right near double figures.

Having so many weapons can make finding enough shots for everyone difficult, but the Raiders seem to have little trouble deciding who should be shooting.

A lot of teams start out packing in on (Janackovic and Berry) and then they kick it out to us, said Winchester, the school's career leader in 3-pointers. We are a tough team to play defense against.

We have a great inside game, and we are going to take advantage of that, said Lamb, the team's point guard. It's just a give-and-take type thing.

The smooth inside-outside flow of the offense is aided by the fact that all five starters played last year for a Raiders team that made the national semifinals.It's just been nice having the experience from going to the national tournament, said Westerberg. We have that extra experience. It's just the familiarity of knowing where everyone's going to be.

That kind of teamwork came in handy against Eastern Oregon, which fell to 1-8 but displayed a solid defense and spurts of capable offense.

The Raiders opened a 17-6 lead early behind seven points -- including a pair of treys -- from Westerberg before the Mountaineers clamped down defensively. Southern Oregon responded with a flurry of poor passes that helped Eastern Oregon close the gap to 19-16 with 7:50 left on Liz Schorzman's 3-pointer.

But Lamb answered with a trey that sparked a 14-3 run over the final seven minutes of the half. The Southern Oregon spurt included a pair of outside jumpers by former Phoenix High standout Ali Richards and ended with a 3-pointer by Winchester.

Berry and Janackovic got things going inside for Southern Oregon early in the second half, combining for eight points during a 13-2 run that stretched the lead to 21 points. Minutes later, Sarah Blakley hit a jumper from the wing that gave the Raiders their biggest lead at 55-30.

Eastern Oregon chipped away at the advantage and cut it to 13 with 2:15 to go. But Lamb knocked in a pair of free throws and Westerberg drained 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to put the final touches on the win.

It's nice to get a conference win, said Huyett, whose teams have won six of seven league openers since the Cascade Conference was formed in 1991-92. I think we can play a lot better than we did tonight.

Sometimes, the best thing we can get out a game is that we have lots of things to work harder in practice on.

The Raiders, off to the best start in school history, face a tough conference battle Friday when they visit Albertson of Caldwell, Idaho.

The Coyotes improved to 12-2 on Saturday night with a 73-60 victory over Northwest Nazarene.

EASTERN OREGON (1-9, 0-1)

Tolan 5-11 2-2 12, Nelson 2-2 5-7 10, Womack 3-5 0-0 6, Schorzman 2-2 0-0 6, Patton 2-9 1-2 5, Kennedy 2-4 0-2 4, Wheeler 1-2 0-0 3, Rockey 1-3 0-0 2, Axford 1-5 0-0 2, New 1-1 0-0 2, Dammarell 0-1 0-1 0, Pace 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 20-47 8-14 52.

SOUTHERN OREGON (14-1, 1-0)

Westerberg 6-12 0-0 17, Janackovic 4-7 4-5 12, Berry 5-7 2-3 12, Lamb 3-5 2-2 10, Winchester 3-10 0-0 8, Richards 2-3 0-0 4, Blakley 2-2 0-0 4, Taylor 1-2 0-0 2, Merritt 0-0 1-2 1, Fisher 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-48 9-12 70.

Halftime--S.Oregon 33, E. Oregon 19. 3-point goals--S. Oregon 9-20 (Westerberg 5-8, Lamb 2-4, Winchester 2-8), E. Oregon 4-6 (Schorzman 2-2, Nelson 1-1, Wheeler 1-2). Fouled out -- none. Rebounds -- Eastern Oregon 28 (Patton 8), Southern Oregon 29 (Janackovic 7, Westerberg 7). Assists -- Eastern Oregon 12 (Rockey 3), Southern Oregon 22 (Lamb 6). Total fouls -- Eastern Oregon 13, Southern Oregon 12. Technical fouls -- none. .

- Photo by Andy Atkinson