SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Southern Oregon fired on all cylinders Monday night in the NAIA Division II Tournament semifinals — excluding, of course, its injured senior all-star point guard and, oh, yeah, the all-star senior center who was plagued by foul trouble.
The relentless depth of the third-ranked and top-seeded Raiders was too much for 18th-ranked and No. 5 seed Goshen (Ind.) at the Tyson Events Center. For the first time in team history, they advanced to the national championship game with a convincing 84-69 defeat of the Maple Leafs that didn't even necessitate much help from the two biggest staples of their recent success, Ashley Claussen and Carly Meister.
The ever-shifting spotlight found freshman post Courtney Setzer, a 6-foot product of Central Point's Crater High, who shot 8 of 10 from the field with 17 points to lead a Raider bench that scored 36 in all and led SOU to 42 points in the paint.
SOU (33-1 overall) has a date at 5 p.m. Pacific Time today with ninth-ranked Marian University (31-6), the same Indianapolis-based school that has met the Raiders in the last two NAIA football title games.
"I just can’t say enough about this team’s determination," SOU head coach Alex Carlson said. “Everybody has bought into and fulfilled their roles, and I know a lot of teams say that, but there are very few teams who get contributions up and down like we did again tonight.”
Goshen — just two years removed from a 4-26 season that featured nine players on its current roster — had never won a tournament game before pulling off three straight upsets to reach the semis. The Maple Leafs finished up at 27-9.
A balanced effort excused the absence of the Claussen, the Raiders’ leader in points, assists and steals, who was injured in Saturday’s quarterfinal win against Briar Cliff (Iowa). Autumn Durand logged 16 points and six rebounds, Tiani Bradford had 11 points, six rebounds and three assists, Majerle Reeves made three 3-pointers off the bench and Toria Bradford had four steals.
And even though Meister was forced to sit out the entire second quarter with two fouls and picked up two more fouls in the third, she still managed 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting and eight boards.
Although the Maple Leafs hung around for most of the night, the Raiders never lost momentum for long. After falling behind 6-5, SOU grabbed the lead for good with a 10-0 run that Reeves finished with consecutive 3-pointers.
Sydney Mullings banked in a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to put the Raiders up 27-19. When Goshen got within 36-32 midway through the second quarter, SOU started a 13-2 run that extended into the third. Mullings again sparked the Raiders going into the break — driving the length of the floor and dishing to Setzer for a layup, and then swatting away Lynnia Noel’s shot to lead to Tiani Bradford’s transition layup to make it 45-34 at halftime.
“If you would’ve told me we’d be without Ashley and only have Carly for five minutes in the first half and still be up 11, I’d say no way,” Carlson said. “We thought we’d have some advantages with our quickness, but when you see that type of size, and for Courtney to not be intimidated by it, that really set the tone. She and Sydney gave us that burst early.”
Setzer credited the team chemistry.
"I think without our team coming together as one, this win would not have happened,” said Setzer. "With Ashley out, everybody had to step up and fill our own roles tonight.”
The Maple Leafs chipped way again in the third quarter when Liz Tecca’s 3-pointer and Gabby Williams’ bucket inside made it 52-46, but Reeves answered right back with another triple, sparking a 10-2 run to cap the period.
SOU didn’t let up in the fourth behind Kristin Smeaton’s five quick points, and Durand’s 3-pointer that made it 76-61 with 5:19 left was the final dagger.
After starting the season with 16 straight wins, the Raiders have won 17 in a row since their only loss.
The Maple Leafs were led by Williams’ 21 points and 10 rebounds. They shot 43 percent from the field to SOU’s 48 percent but missed 10 of 12 shots from downtown in the second half.
Marian, which prior to this season had only one all-time tournament victory, advanced with an 84-55 rout of 12th-ranked Mount Marty (S.D.), the tournament’s most lopsided semifinal game in nine years.
The Knights won the Crossroads League, in which Goshen finished second, with a record of 16-2. In the quarterfinals, they knocked out top-ranked Morningside (Iowa), last year’s champion.
“(Marian) might have the best guards in the tournament,” Carlson said. “They’re a very athletic, strong team. You just can’t count us out though. We’re gonna compete and there’s a couple matchups that we think can cause some problems.
“It’s just been an unbelievable ride and so impressive what this team has fought through.”
Jo’Mani Thomas 3-6 1-2 7, Gabby Williams 9-12 3-6 21, Liz Tecca 3-8 1-2 10, Sophia Sears 2-10 0-0 4, Tyra Carver 2-9 0-0 4, Haley Archibeque 3-4 0-0 8, Kelsey Fraley 0-0 0-0 0, Lynnia Noel 3-11 3-4 10, Keshia Ward 2-3 1-2 5, Calla Bartlett 0-0 0-0 0, Angela McLean 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-63 9-16 69
SOUTHERN OREGON (84)
Demi Sahlinger 2-4 2-4 7, Tiani Bradford 4-9 2-2 11, Toria Bradford 1-9 2-4 4, Autumn Durand 3-7 9-12 16, Carly Meister 4-6 2-5 10, Taylor Nuttall 0-2 0-0 0, Sydney Mullings 2-3 0-0 5, Majerle Reeves 3-7 0-0 9, Emily Peters 0-0 0-0 0, Courtney Setzer 8-10 1-1 17, Kristin Smeaton 2-3 1-1 5. Totals 29-60 19-29 84
3-point shots — Goshen 6-21 (Tecca 3-8, Sears 0-2, Carver 0-3, Archibeque 2-3, Noel 1-5), Southern Oregon 7-19 (Sahlinger 1-1, Tiani Bradford 1-4, Toria Bradford 0-3, Durand 1-3, Mullings 1-1, Reeves 3-7). Fouled out — Thomas. Rebounds — Goshen 35 (Williams 10), Southern Oregon 40 (Meister 8). Assists — Goshen 16 (Sears 5), Southern Oregon 16 (Sahlinger 4). Turnovers — Goshen 19, Southern Oregon 18. Total fouls — Goshen 24, Southern Oregon 15. Technical foul — Goshen bench.