ASHLAND — Just when it looked like things might get interesting down the stretch, the Raiders kicked things into gear and pulled away for good.
The No. 11-ranked Southern Oregon women's basketball team outscored No. 17 Northwest Christian 20-6 in the fourth quarter to storm its way to a 80-58 victory in the semifinal round of the Cascade Conference tournament at Mountain Avenue Gymnasium on Friday night.
The Raiders, who improved to 27-3 with the win, not only advanced to Monday night's CCC tourney title game, but also wrapped up an automatic bid into the NAIA Division II national tournament thanks to being the No. 2 seed and regular-season champion Eastern Oregon beating Oregon Tech 77-65 in Friday's other semifinal matchup.
By virtue of capturing the regular-season title, SOU will head to Eastern Oregon, with the title game scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Root Sports Northwest.
Eastern Oregon, ranked sixth nationally, handed Southern Oregon two of its three losses this season.
SOU senior point guard Toria Bradford finished with a team-high 21 points while recording four assists and four steals in the win. Fellow senior Remi Mejia finished with 16 points despite a tough shooting night from the field and also dished out four assists.
Three other Raiders scored in double figures. Casey Williams and Ariel Augustine finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively, while Daranda Hinkey added 13 points off the bench.
After seeing their lead cut to eight points, Bradford and Mejia scored layups within a minute of one another early in the fourth quarter to push the Raiders' lead back into double digits at 69-55 with seven minutes to go.
Southern Oregon never trailed by less than 13 the rest of the game.
Hannah Eddens scored a game-high 23 points off the bench — including a 15-for-21 clip at the free throw line — for Northwest Christian, which could very well be in line for an at-large bid thanks to its current national ranking.
Danny Penza can be reached at 541-776-4483 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.