SOU hammers Northwest College
Point guard Sara Marks leads the charge as SOU advances in the Cascade Conference tournament
ASHLAND - The candles were finally blown out midway through the second half.
That's when the Southern Oregon women's basketball team cooked up a 33-10 run to hand head coach Kevin Wilson a 91-75 victory for his 44th birthday and secure a spot in the Cascade Conference tournament semifinals.
Northwest College (8-23 overall) entered Tuesday night's game at McNeal Pavilion as the conference tournament's sixth and final seed, but it played with a party-crashing abandon throughout the first half and was deadlocked with the third-seeded Raiders (17-10) at 50-all with 16 minutes, 5 seconds remaining.
Junior point guard Sara Marks, the Cascade's leading scorer during conference action and second highest overall, ignited SOU with a steal and layup and the Raiders never trailed again in front of 600 fans.
Sophomore guard Lindsey Hilaire's jump shot at the 8:44 mark made it 65-54 in SOU's favor. 3:13, junior guard Kelly Dexter's layup off a Hilaire pass pushed the lead to a high of 83-60 and completed a streak of 10 Raider points in one minute of action.
"We relaxed a little and played intense defense," said Marks, who tallied a game-high 26 points despite flu symptoms, of the second-half surge. "We wore them down."
SOU's reward is a third shot at second-seeded Western Baptist (22-10) in Salem on Friday. The Raiders have suffered two defeats by a combined seven points to the Warriors, including an 83-80 setback last Thursday that kept SOU from splitting the regular-season Cascade championship with Eastern Oregon.
"We wanted another chance at Western Baptist," said Marks, who was 9-for-14 from the field, 7-for-10 from the free-throw line, grabbed seven rebounds and dished four assists in 29 minutes. "And this time, we're gonna take it to 'em."
Teaming with Marks in taking it to the Eagles were a trio of teammates who also scored in double figures.
Senior forward Melissa Core tallied all 13 of her points in the second half.
"We started playing as a team," the Cave Junction native said of SOU's definitive push. "We talked about getting out and start running at halftime. Once we run, we're tough to beat."
Junior post Amy Tangedahl scored 13 points and fought for a game-high 10 rebounds, leading the Raiders to a 54-38 edge on the boards.
And junior post Kara Magee-Arick, SOU's sixth woman and second-leading scorer behind Marks, produced 10 of her 15 points in the first half, when the Raiders desperately needed a spark.
Although Northwest held just a 41-40 advantage at the break - and that only thanks to junior guard Kim Haley's 25-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer - the Eagles were the aggressors for the majority of the first 20 minutes.
SOU solidified defensively after the break, forcing 11 turnovers and limiting Northwest to 35.1-percent shooting from the field.
"We played tough defense that second half," said Wilson, in his first year with the Raiders. "That was the whole key."
The Eagles had five players score in double figures, including freshman post Kelly Clarke, a Medford native and Cascade Christian graduate who finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Senior post Becky Pilgrim, an Applegate native and Hidden Valley alumna, was held to four points and five rebounds.
SOU has now won nine of its last 10 and 11 of 13 - the only two losses in that stretch both at the hands of Western Baptist.
If Tuesday's victory was indeed the Raiders' final home outing of the season, SOU finishes 9-3 at home and won its last five at McNeal Pavilion.
For another home game, the Raiders must win Friday and have Eastern Oregon lose on Friday.
SOU, which shot 54.3 percent in the second half and 47.1 percent overall compared to Northwest's 40.3 clip, hopes to keep its NAIA national tournament dreams alive by turning the tide on the Warriors on Friday.
"They're much more physical than us," Wilson said. "Hopefully, we'll have some people (referees) who aren't afraid to make calls. One way to stop the running game is through physical play, and we can't let them do that.
"We have to be high scoring to win."
Lockard 3-10 3-4 11, Haley 3-10 1-6 10, Pilgrim 2-4 0-0 4, N. Hover 6-12 0-0 14, Clarke 5-9 2-3 12, Siekawich 1-2 1-2 3, Helmly 1-4 0-0 2, M. Hover 4-9 1-4 10, Triller 0-2 0-0 0, Swedberg 3-6 0-0 7, Scott 0-3 0-1 0, Nettleton 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 29-72 8-20 75.
SOUTHERN OREGON (17-10)
Hilaire 2-8 0-0 4, Core 5-11 1-2 13, Tangedahl 5-9 2-2 13, Nunley 1-3 2-2 4, Marks 9-14 7-10 26, Magee-Arick 6-14 1-2 15, Dexter 2-7 5-8 9, Murphy 0-0 0-0 0, Dolezal 1-1 1-3 3, Beers 2-2 0-0 4, Harline 0-0 0-0 0, McMullen 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 33-70 19-29 91.
Halftime-Northwest 41, Southern Oregon 40. 3-point goals-Northwest 9-28 (Lockard 2-7, Haley 3-6, N. Hover 2-6, Siekawich 0-1, M. Hover 1-3, Swedberg 1-3, Scott 0-2), SOU 6-19 (Hilaire 0-2, Core 2-5, Tangedahl 1-2, Marks 1-3, Magee-Arick 2-7). Rebounds-Northwest 38 (N. Hover 7), SOU 54 (Tangedahl 10). Assists-Northwest 21 (N. Hover 5, Siekawich 5), SOU 19 (Hilaire 4, Marks 4, Dexter 4). Team fouls-Northwest 22, SOU 14. A-600.