by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer
Mountaineer women top College of Idaho for Cascade Conference crown
The Eastern Oregon University women’s basketball team saved their most thrilling finish for the Cascade Collegiate Conference championship game.
Or at least that’s how it seemed.
The Mountaineers used a Brooke Randall floater with 20.3 seconds left to break a 66-66 tie before holding off the College of Idaho, 69-68, to win the CCC tournament crown Monday night at Quinn Coliseum.
EOU has now won 25 straight games.
“It was an unbelievable ending to a great, great year,” EOU head coach Anji Weissenfluh said.
But for most of the game, it looked like College of Idaho was trying to spoil things on the Mountaineers’ home court.
After back-and-forth play early in the game, the Lady Yotes took a 31-30 lead into halftime.
The Mountaineers started the second half on a 9-2 run to go up 39-33 with 18:03 left to play.
But C of I responded with a 12-5 run capped by a Felicity Jones jumper with 12:26 to go to make it a 45-44 lead for the visitors.
The Yotes held the lead — which stretched to as much as eight points on two occasions — until Kelsea Hurliman hit a 3-pointer at the 1:24 mark to tie the game at 66-all.
“College of Idaho played well,” Weissenfluh said. “(They) kind of dominated the game in a lot of areas, especially on the boards all night.”
The game was still tied when Randall drove the lane and put up a wild, off-balance floater that found the bottom of the net as the shot clock expired with 20.3 seconds left on the clock to make it a 68-66 EOU lead.
Eastern Oregon’s Kelsea Hurliman (above) had a game-high 17 points, including a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:24 left to play, in the Mountaineers’ 69-68 victory over College of Idaho in the Cascade Collegiate Conference championship game Monday night. CASEY KELLAS/The Observer
“Honestly, I didn’t even look at the basket when I shot it,” said Randall, who scored 15 points.
“That was just Brooke being Brooke and making a play,” Weissenfluh added.
“By that time it was a broken play and her just stepping up and making a play.”
C of I turned the ball over with 7.3 seconds left, forcing the Yotes to foul Nicole Redd, who hit one of two free throws.
After a College of Idaho timeout, the Yotes inbounded it with 3.5 seconds left, but a Jones 3-point attempt was off the mark. Chakala Carthen rebounded the ball and put it back up at the buzzer, but it didn’t matter and EOU held on for the win.
“After Kelsea’s three, that momentum got the adrenaline going. I knew we had the heart to pull through,” Randall said.
Her coach agreed.
“Obviously, now that we know the ending, we kind of needed another gut check,” Weissenfluh said.
“It was the will to win at the end. It was people stepping up and doing things that we’ve done all year in pressure situations.”
Hurliman finished with a game-high 17 points, while Jorie Freeman added 15 points and five rebounds.
Chayla Jones scored seven points and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.
Laura Geis led C of I with 15 points, while Carthen had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Dayna Drager added 11 points.
“Our girls, we were trying to work through some things. And they just kept at it, and kept at it, and people came up with big plays,” Weissenfluh said.
The Mountaineers will now wait for the NAIA selection committee to release its seeding today for the national tournament, which starts March 6 in Sioux City, Iowa.