SOU women fall in conference title game
EUGENE — Another road upset was not in the cards Monday night for the Southern Oregon women's basketball team, which hung around with 16th-ranked Northwest Christian for two and a half quarters before falling 80-65 in the title game of the Cascade Conference Championships presented by U.S. Bank.
At the Morse Event Center, junior wing Morgan McKinney, the presumptive CCC Player of the Year, scored 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting and ignited a 19-2 Beacons run after the Raiders cut their lead to 51-47 with five minutes left in the third.
After claiming their first CCC regular season title outright nine days ago, the Beacons (26-5) now have their first tournament crown.
The Raiders fell to 20-10, but their spot in the NAIA Division II National Tournament field was already safe as a result of their advancing to the championship with Friday's semifinal upset at 25th-ranked Eastern Oregon. The 32-team bracket will be revealed at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and first-round action in Sioux City, Iowa, is set for March 11-12.
Freshman forward Kami Walk registered team-highs of 15 points and nine boards for SOU, which was playing without standout wing Syd'Nee Fryer due to injury. Kalei Iwami connected on four 3-pointers to score 12 points and Daranda Hinkey went for 10 points, four assists and three steals.
The teams were tied at 20 through one quarter but the Raiders committed 16 of its 26 turnovers in the first half and went into the break down nine.
They chipped away early in the third, helped by five quick points from Walk, and Iwami's 3 trimmed NCU's deficit to 51-47 before the wheels fell off. Izzy Hernandez's triple stopped the bleeding with eight minutes to go in the fourth, but prior to that make they managed one bucket during a decisive seven-minute span.
Dominique Harding, who was voted the CCC Player of the Week on Monday for her exploits in the first two games of the tournament, chipped in nine points and five rebounds for the Raiders, shooting 4-of-8.
Harding's tourney run concluded at 18 points per game on 53-percent shooting and a six-rebound average. Iwami hit 10 triples and averaged 12 points over the three games.
NCU post Kayce Mock had 12 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and three steals, and Dani Baker hit three of the Beacons' nine 3-pointers off the bench.
SOU's appearance at the national tournament will be its fifth in six seasons and 12th overall.