No. 21 SOU stuns No. 11 Midland in final seconds
With the clock winding down and the game tied, Tim Weber surveyed the floor and decided Southern Oregon didn’t need a time-out. Later, in the Raiders’ locker room, he would thank head coach Brian McDermott for coming to the same conclusion.
Weber dribbled up the court and found Jordan West streaking to the hoop for a game-winning layup with two seconds to go as 21st-ranked Southern Oregon overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to upset 11th-ranked Midland 73-71 in the first round of the NAIA Division II National Championships, Thursday at Keeter Gym in Point Lookout, Mo.
The win advances the Raiders to the round of 16 for the second time in three years. They’ll face 24th-ranked Grace (Ind.), another upset winner, Friday at 11:45 a.m. (Pacific) for a berth in the quarterfinals.
Midland took a 56-44 lead, its largest of the game, on Jalen Hueser’s inside bucket with 11:51 to go and was up 58-49 two minutes later before a 3-pointer by SOU senior forward Eric Thompson kickstarted a 15-2 surge by the Raiders that gave them a 64-60 lead.
Southern Oregon (25-9) was still up four with a minute to go when back-to-back turnovers by the Raiders led to Midland fastbreak layups the other way — first by Galen Gullie and later by Jesse Jones. Jones’ breakaway bucket with seven seconds left tied the game at 71, but Weber didn’t panic.
“They were scrambled,” he said. “I saw who was guarding me and I knew I could get past him, and when their big guy [Alex Starkel] stepped up I knew West would be wide open. We’ve ran that 1,000 times in practice and that time it just happened to win a game at the national tournament.”
On the SOU sideline, head coach Brian McDermott considered calling a time-out and was even advised to by an assistant coach, but decided against it. It proved to be the right decision when Starkel confronted Weber near the 3-point line, opening up a passing lane for Weber to hit West. The 6-foot-8 junior post did his part, banking in the easy layup and sending SOU to the Sweet 16.
“It’s not really a plan,” McDermott said of the game-winning improvisation. “You take a look at where everybody’s at and you kind of make the adjustment, and we felt like we could inbound the ball to (Weber) right away but if we called a time-out you might not be able to get it back in his hands. We felt like, just let it go, man, and let Timmy make plays. And Timmy makes a lot of plays.”
He actually made another moments later, though it was almost an afterthought following the dramatic layup. As most of his teammates celebrated Weber then positioned himself in front of Jones to force a traveling violation as the horn sounded. That set off more celebrating by the Raiders, who are now one win away from the program’s second quarterfinal appearance and first since 2005.
“Just pure joy on the entire team’s faces,” Weber said of SOU’s postgame locker room. “We were hugging coaches, hugging each other. It’s one of those defining moments that a team needs in a tournament like this.”
West led the Raiders with 21 points and five rebounds, Weber had 15 points, six rebounds and four assists and Thompson 15 points and nine boards. Ben DeSaulnier also stepped up for the Raiders with 11 points, including a key 3-pointer with 3:03 to go that erased Midland’s last lead of the game and put SOU up 67-65.
Guards Marcus Franklin and Gullie led the Warriors to a 41-35 halftime lead but were held in check after the break. Franklin scored 16 points in the first half and fouled out with 18; Gullie scored 10 points in the first half and finished with 15.
Harold Ridgeway added 13 points and six boards and Trevor Bryant eight points and seven rebounds for the Warriors (26-8). Starkel, who led the team in scoring and rebounding during the regular season, was held to six points and five rebounds and was 3-for-14 from the floor.
The Warriors appeared to be on the verge of pulling away after methodically pushing their six-point halftime lead to double digits midway through the second half, but SOU rediscovered its rhythm just in time. Thompson’s 3 with 9:21 to go seemed to light a spark. After that, Weber and West scored to make it a two-point game and, following an inside bucket by Ridgeway, Weber nailed two free throws and West scored inside, tying the game (60-all) for the first time since the first half.
“We just talked about us being us,” McDermott said of the comeback. “We wanted to run the stuff that we always run and if we stayed with it, we believed that we’d get the shots we wanted, and that’s what happened.”
That was especially the case on the last shot.
“I haven’t won one down here like that — that was awesome,” McDermott said. “They were obviously really, really excited. And we’ve all watched our next opponent [Grace] and we feel like that’s a nice matchup and that maybe now we can go and get another win.”
Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or firstname.lastname@example.org.