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SOU women battle back to eliminate Knights

ASHLAND — In a matter of minutes Tuesday night at Lithia Motors Pavilion, the Southern Oregon University women's basketball team went from staring down an early postseason exit to potentially one win away from the national tournament.

The third-seeded Raiders trailed sixth-seeded Warner Pacific by eight after Anna Farber's bucket with 4:01 remaining in the quarterfinal round of the Cascade Conference Championships, but the Knights were shut out the rest of the way and SOU ended the game with 14 unanswered points to win 60-54.

The Raiders (19-9) trailed by as many as 13 and didn't take their first lead until Syd'Nee Fryer's free throw with 49 seconds to go. With 19 seconds left, Dominique Harding put an exclamation point on the rally by driving inside for a floater that turned into a three-point play, making it 58-54.

The win will send SOU to second-seeded Eastern Oregon for Friday's semifinals. If top-seeded Northwest Christian defeats fifth-seeded Corban in the other semifinal, the SOU-EOU winner will collect the CCC's second automatic bid to the NAIA Division II National Tournament.

Harding, a sophomore guard, scored nine of her game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter. She shot 7-of-14 from the field and grabbed eight rebounds and Kami Walk went for nine points and nine boards, salvaging an otherwise frustrating offensive night in which SOU shot 33 percent from the field and committed 27 turnovers.

The Raiders went down 16-6 after committing eight first-quarter turnovers and played uphill the rest of the way. After they tied the score for the first time, 44-44 with 7:46 left, WPU guard Darbi Pink gave the Knights breathing room again with a personal 8-0 spurt — serving a floater off the backboard before knocking down back-to-back 3s from deep.

Pink totaled 19 points and seven steals for WPU, going 8-of-14 from the field, and Gabriella Bruno had eight points and four assists but was limited to 3-of-17 shooting.

SOU's run started with a Kami Walk third-chance bucket at the 2:41 mark. A Harding three-point play then brought the Raiders within 54-51, and Kalei Iwami stepped into her third 3-point make of the game to tie it again with 1:33 left.

After another one of SOU's eight consecutive defensive stops to end the game, Fryer went to the bucket and drew a foul to get to the line.

Fryer helped the Raiders to extra chances with four steals and nine rebounds. Kenadee Honaker totaled 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive end in her first game back after missing five due to injury.

Eastern Oregon won both regular-season matchups against the Raiders. The SOU-EOU winner will play in Monday's championship game, which will be hosted by the highest remaining seed.

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