MOUNTAINEERS FALL SHORT OF NAIA BERTH
The tears spilled by the Eastern Oregon University women's basketball team after Friday's 80-72 season-ending loss to Western Baptist College were not tears born of the here and now.
They were not tears originating from some wellspring of immediacy.
They were tears shed for the end of an era.
"When you lose two players in Sarah (Smith) and Jamie Jo (Cant) who have given so much to this university, who are the best EOU has to offer, there's going to be some tears," EOU head coach Anji Weissenfluh said. "If you're not crying, then there might actually be something wrong with you.
"I told them both after the game that every player who ever plays for me will know about them. They mean that much."
Smith and Cant, both seniors, played their final game Friday night in a hotly contested Cascade Collegiate Conference tournament semifinal.
Eastern (20-7) opened the first half with a 10-3 lead thanks to 3-pointers by Cant and Christie Weaver, but Western answered with an 8-0 run to take an 11-10 lead.
With the score tied at 14, two Cant 3-pointers and a cross-court pass to a cutting Heidi Horobiowski for a layup gave EOU a 24-16 lead with a little over six minutes to play in the half.
Cant led all scorers with 27 points.
Tied again, this time at 35 with less than five seconds left, Horobiowski rebounded a Western Baptist miss, but Warrior leading scorer Jessica Steigleman stripped her of the ball and hit a layup as time expired for a 37-35 lead.
"Last time we played Eastern four of my starters didn't practice that whole week because of injury," Western Baptist head coach Dave Bale said. "We knew we were athletic enough and if we stayed close we would have a shot to win at the end. We came in ready to play and play hard. I feel bad for Anji and her players."
In the second half Eastern was able to push its lead to 62-52 before Western Baptist outscored the Mountaineers 28-10 over the final seven-and- a-half minutes for the victory.
Western Baptist went 23-of-25 from the free-throw line in the victory.
"I'm shaky right now I'm so excited," said Steigleman, who finished with 21 points. "We played so well and I'm so proud of us right now. I could just feel our attitude change from the first half to the second. This is great."
Weaver had 22 points for EOU in the loss.
Western Baptist (23-9) will now host Albertson College, a 37-36 upset winner over top seed Oregon Instititute of Technology, Tuesday in the CCC championship game with a trip to the NAIA National Tournament on the line.
An Eastern win would have brought Albertson to Quinn Coliseum for the championship game.
"It hurts," said Cant, who put off graduate school for a year to come back and use her final season of eligibility. "You can't define a whole career by one game, but this whole thing has been absolutely worth it.
"I'll miss it. I'll miss the competition. I'll miss the people. I'll miss everything."
WESTERN BAPTIST (80)
Wilson 3-6 2-2 8, Plotts 3-9 0-0 9, Gama 4-4 1-1 9, Steigleman 7-15 7-8 21, Carras 5-9 10-10 20, Schaumburg 3-7 2-2 10, Hansen 0-3 1-2 1, Visser 0-0 0-0 0, Peterson 1-4 0-0 2. Totals: 26-57 23-25 80.
EASTERN OREGON (72)
Shelton 3-7 0-0 7, Weaver 9-15 1-2 22, Peterson 2-7 1-4 5, Cant 8-22 7-8 27, Horobiowski 3-10 2-2 8, Vogler 0-0 0-0 0, Hawes 1-3 0-0 2, Olsen 0-2 0-0, Smith 0-1 1-2 1. Totals: 26-67 12-18 72.
Halftime score WBC 37, EOU 35. Three-pointers WBC 5-15 (Plotts 3-8), EOU 8-20 (Cant 4-8). Total fouls WBC 20, EOU 19. Turnovers WBC 22, EOU 19. Rebounds WBC 35 (Carras 8), EOU 43 (Peterson 10). Assists WBC 16 (Wilson 6), EOU 19 (Shelton 9).