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Raiders romp to victory in NAIA start

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The Southern Oregon women’s basketball team’s stable of post players didn’t look any smaller Wednesday morning on the big stage.

Junior forward Carly Meister scored 25 points, leading the 10th-ranked Raiders to a 62-26 advantage in the paint and the program’s first NAIA Division II Tournament win in 16 years, 96-61 over 21st-ranked Robert Morris (Ill.) at the Tyson Events Center.

A clinical second half, in which the Raiders shot 56 percent (24-for-43) from the field, turned a 41-29 halftime lead into a rout. With 10 minutes left to play, SOU was up by 27.

“We stayed true to ourselves and our usual game plan, just like we talked about beforehand,” Raider coach Lynn Kennedy said. “It was great for the girls to get that win, but they’re not satisfied.”

The Raiders (27-4 overall), seeded third in their quadrant, will play unranked and seventh-seeded Tabor (Kan.) at 6:30 a.m. PDT Friday in a Sweet 16 contest. The first game of the tournament saw Tabor (20-12) — the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference regular-season champion — upset seventh-ranked and second-seeded Marian (Ind.), 53-50, going ahead for good with 27 seconds remaining.

Tabor has never made it out of the second round. SOU hasn’t done it since 1997.

But as the Raiders indicated on Wednesday, they may have the weapons to do it now. Meister went 11-for-15 with nine rebounds and was joined by five others in double figures: Ashley Claussen (13), Autumn Durand (12), Alexi Smith (12), Kristen Schoenherr (10) and Autumn Durand (10).

Smith also grabbed eight rebounds — the Raiders, who haven't been out-rebounded this season, had a 57-27 advantage on the boards, collecting 21 on the offensive end — while Claussen totaled six assists and five rebounds, Durand had five boards and Schoenherr chipped in four rebounds and three steals.

The Eagles (21-7), members of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, were bogged down at 30-percent shooting in both halves. Yolana De La Torre, Kiela Gardner and Jailyn Norris combined for 36 points, but also combined for 11-for-36 accuracy.

After getting down 14-4 seven minutes into the game, the Eagles made a move to cut SOU’s edge to 30-24 and never got any closer, as the Raiders opened up the lead going into the break and scored the first six points of the second half.

“We knew that if we rebounded a little better in the second half and got some defensive stops right away, we were going to be OK,” Kennedy said. “That’s what we did, and I think the tempo eventually got to (RMU) and they wore down a little.”

Bree Park returned to the Raider lineup for the first time in five games after battling injuries and went 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. Also off the bench, Tiani Bradford contributed four points and four assists and Demi Sahlinger had four assists.

It was SOU’s highest-scoring effort in 13 all-time tournament games, as well as the widest margin of victory.

Tabor has held nine straight opponents under 60 points. The Raiders have gone over 80 points in seven of their last 10.

“Every team is good at this point in the season,” Kennedy said. “Tabor will be a different challenge than we’ve had. They played really well this morning and we’ll need to be at our best.

The SOU-Tabor winner will play in the quarterfinal round at 11 a.m. Saturday.