Honaker’s career night propels SOU into Round of 32
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — If not for the most unlikely of shot-making heroes, Southern Oregon would have remembered Friday’s NAIA National Tournament Round of 64 game for the blown 11-point fourth-quarter lead, the foul trouble that shrouded star forward Kami Walk, the upset that slipped away.
Instead, the No. 10-seeded Raiders’ 65-59 defeat of No. 7 seed Georgetown (Ky.) at the MacArthur Center will be remembered only as one thing: The Kenadee Honaker Game.
Honaker, the senior wing known for everything but her scoring, turned in her best-ever offensive performance to rescue SOU from the grips of elimination in a return to her hometown. The Santa Clarita native scored a career-high 16 points in front of a partisan crowd — matching her combined output from the previous 10 games — and shot 2-of-3 from 3-point range after entering the night with a 3-of-30 mark on the season.
With the Raiders down 59-56 and 1:54 to play, Syd’Nee Fryer found Honaker on the wing near the end of the shot clock and she swished home the game-tying 3. Seconds later, Brianna Phiakhamngon came up with her fourth steal and threw ahead to Honaker on a breakaway for the go-ahead layup.
The Raiders (29-5 overall) held the Tigers (22-12) without a field goal for the final 3:17, nixing the comeback effort that had led to a 15-point swing up to that point in the fourth. With 22 seconds remaining, Dominique Harding drove to the basket untouched for a layup that put the Raiders up four points and firmly in control.
SOU advanced to play in the Round of 32 at 7 p.m. Saturday against No. 2-seeded and seventh-ranked The Master’s (Calif.), the site host. The Mustangs defeated No. 15 seed UC Merced, 63-41, in their first-round game to improve to 30-3.
“I am extremely proud of this team,” said first-year SOU coach Carlotta Kloppenburg-Pruitt. “We stayed composed and together after Georgetown came back to take the lead and Kenadee was huge in front of her home crowd. She’s a great leader and essential to what we do even when she’s not scoring, but she stepped up and gave us exactly what we needed to get another opportunity to play tomorrow.”
Honaker shot 7-of-12 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds while the rest of the team combined to shoot 28 percent. She’d averaged 2.3 points over her first 29 games and hadn’t scored more than seven this year.
Her first 3-pointer, which opened the fourth quarter, gave the Raiders an 11-point lead before Georgetown stormed back with a 23-8 run.
Fryer, a senior forward, battled for her third double-double in six games with 12 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots. Harding and Phiakhamngon scored 10 apiece to help cover for the production lost by Walk’s foul trouble. Walk, SOU’s leading scorer at better than 16 points per game, was limited to six on 3-of-12 shooting in 20 minutes.
The Raiders forced 21 turnovers and limited the Tigers to 27% shooting until the fourth quarter, where they went 10-of-17.
Jazzmyn Elson sparked the comeback and finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. Madison Darnell scored 14 for the Tigers, who were coming off a two-point loss to fifth-ranked Campbellsville (Ky.) in the Mid-South Conference Tournament championship.
The matchup was the first between SOU and Georgetown. After an ugly first quarter in which the teams combined to go 6-of-34, the Raiders heated up in the second and raced to a 23-11 on Honaker’s second-chance bucket at the six-minute mark followed by her basket in transition.
The Raiders have won five straight and 12 of their last 13. None of their four postseason opponents to this point have broken the 60-pont mark.