No Claussen, no problem as Raiders roar into national semis
Their lead down to a single point and their best player on the bench nursing an injured knee, the Southern Oregon Raiders found a way to keep their dream season going Saturday.
Southern Oregon's defense produced seven straight stops in the final three minutes and Autumn Durand scored off a perfectly executed pick-and-roll pass from Demi Sahlinger with 35 seconds left to highlight a key five-point surge as the No. 3-ranked Raiders survived the loss of star point guard Ashley Claussen to beat 11th-ranked Tabor, 73-67, in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Tournament at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
The Raiders, who are the highest-ranked team left in the tournament, will play No. 18 Goshen of Indiana in the national semifinals on Monday. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. (Pacific) and the game, which represents SOU's second semifinal appearance and first since 1997, will be streamed live on ESPN3.
The Raiders looked ready to blow the game open, up 22-15 early in the second quarter, when Claussen fell to the floor as her left knee twisted awkwardly. She was helped off the court and sat out the rest of the half, then re-entered to start the third quarter only to go down again. The Cascade Conference Player of the Year watched the rest of the game from the bench and her status for the semifinals is uncertain.
With Claussen out, the Raiders (32-1) struggled to regain their rhythm offensively and Tabor (28-8), which eliminated the Raiders in the second round a year ago, rallied from an 11-point deficit to take a 41-39 lead with 3:37 to go in the third.
A 3-pointer by SOU's Majerle Reeves gave the Raiders a 64-58 lead with 6:11 left in the game, but the Blue Jays rallied again and trailed by one, 66-65, after Tena Loewen scored with 3:24 on the clock.
That's when the Southern Oregon defense, along with some clutch execution, tilted the game in SOU's favor.
Toria Bradford went 1-for-2 at the free throw line with 2:07 left to increase SOU's lead to 67-65, and following a missed 3 and a turnover by the Blue Jays, Sahlinger hit Durand as she rolled to the basket for a wide-open layup and a 69-65 Raider lead with 35 seconds left.
Two missed Tabor jump shots later, Durand iced the game at the free throw line.
Goshen, seeded fifth, beat Dakota Wesleyan 89-71 earlier in the day.
The national championship game will be played Tuesday at 5:04 p.m. (Pacific).