Raiders eliminate NW Christian

Chelsey Muri had the answers for the Southern Oregon University women's basketball team on Tuesday.

The 5-foot-8 senior point guard scored a game-high 27 points, fueling the second-seeded Raiders in key moments of a 76-60 victory over seventh-seeded Northwest Christian College in the quarterfinals of the Cascade Conference Tournament at McNeal Pavilion.

"I think she's (NCAA Division I) material," NCC coach Liz Turner-Bolton said of Muri. "She's an amazing player and makes it difficult to match up. She makes her team tick, for sure."

Muri shot 8 for 12 from the field, including — for 4 from 3-point range, and 8 of 10 from the free-throw line to fend off the pesky Beacons, who kept the game close until being forced to foul late in the game.

SOU (27-4, 18-3 CC) led by 10 at the break, but five quick points from NCC's Kristin Nelson made it 40-35 before a Muri 3-pointer.

NCC (14-17, 8-13 CC) cut the lead to two moments later after an 8-2 run, but Muri followed with another 3-pointer, part of five-straight points from the Monroe, Wash., native.

The Beacons got no closer than four in the second half as the Raiders slowly pulled away.

Muri had 14 in the second half.

"She's one of the best players in the nation," third-year SOU coach Lynn Kennedy said. "She just leads everybody else."

The Raiders have won 15 of 16 games and host eighth-seeded Cascade, which upset top-seeded Eastern Oregon on Tuesday 67-66, in the semifinals on Friday at 7:30.

SOU swept Cascade during the regular season, winning by an average margin of nearly 17 points per game.

Eastern Oregon, which shared the conference title with SOU, already has an invitation to the national tournament, but the Mountaineers' exit opens the door for the Raiders, who, as the highest seed, will also host the championship game on Monday should they win Friday.

If the Raiders win the Cascade Conference Tournament, they'll make their first trip to the NAIA Div. II National Championships in Sioux City, Iowa for the first time since 2003.

SOU could also qualify for an at-large bid.

"What we do doesn't change," Kennedy said after learning of EOU's upset loss. "We feel like teams have to get ready for us. We have so many weapons. We just feel like we have to approach each game wanting to set our own tempo."

The Raiders did that early against NCC behind Muri and 6-1 sophomore forward Jackie Speer.

The two scored SOU's first 13 points of the game, seven of those coming from Speer, who also had a game-high 15 rebounds to go along with 13 points.

SOU never trailed in the contest despite a strong effort from 5-11 junior forward Elise Gray. She finished with 23 points for NCC before fouling out.

Muri's two free throws late in the first half gave SOU its biggest lead to that point at 40-27 but NCC's senior guard Amy Croll connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 40-30 at the half.

"Every time we got some momentum, we never put them away," Muri said. "We let them have that glimmer of hope. We never put the hammer down."

At least, not until late in the game.

The Raiders came away empty handed on eight straight possessions midway through the second half, allowing the Beacons to cut it to four.

But sophomore guard Whitney Scott hit a 3-pointer and junior forward Kellyn Cooper hit two free throws to give SOU a 58-49 lead.

"I thought we played well at times," Kennedy said. "Our intensity wasn't what it was for the last couple of weeks, but sometimes you have to grind these playoff games out. You know the other team is going to come in and they are going to be intense."

The Beacons were able to climb to within six late, but a 6-0 run &

two from Muri and two by Speer &

put the game out of reach.

SOU shot 24 of 61 from the field (39.3 percent) to 20 of 58 (34.5 percent) for NCC. Sophomore forward Ashley Baker was the only other Raider in double figures with 10.

Croll had 11 for NCC and junior forward McKenzie Gambee added 10.

"We just needed one more basket to start that downward slide," Turner-Bolton said. "We were one play away.

"I think (SOU) is one of the toughest teams in our league in terms of matching up. They've got an amazing point guard, they've got 3s, and they've got the inside presence. They've got a good shot to go to nationals based on the talent they have. My hat is off to them. They are a great team."


Lipp 0-3 1-4 1, Croll 2-3 6-6 11, Renner 3-11 2-3 8, Gray 7-13 8-8 23, Nelson 3-9 1-1 7, Bolander 0-1 0-0 0, Monteith 0-0 0-0 0, Gambee 5-13 0-0 10, Crocker 0-3 0-0 0, Van Loon 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 20-58 18-22 60.

SOUTHERN OREGON (27-4, 18-3)

Muri 8-12 8-10 27, Brookins 1-8 1-2 4, Cooper 1-4 3-4 5, Dickison 1-8 6-6 9, Speer 6-10 1-2 13, Smith 0-0 1-2 1, Wood 0-2 1-1 1, Scott 2-7 1-1 6, Baker 5-10 0-2 10, Scheffler 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 24-61 22-30 76.

Halftime &

Southern Oregon 40, Northwest Christian 30. 3-point goals &

Northwest Christian 2-9 (Croll 1-1, Renner 0-3, Gray 1-1, Nelson 0-1, Crocker 0-3), Southern Oregon 6-21 (Muri 3-4, Brookins 1-6, Dickison 1-6, Wood 0-2, Scott 1-3). Rebounds &

Northwest Christian 37 (Croll 7), Southern Oregon 41 (Speer 15). Assists &

Northwest Christian 7 (Croll 3), Southern Oregon 6 (Scott 2, Dickison 2). Personal fouls &

Northwest Christian 26, Southern Oregon 13.

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