Eastern Oregon women’s basketball Head Coach Anji Weissenfluh said even in the midst of what was a tense, tight, thrilling battle Friday against College of Idaho, she was able to find a moment to pause and enjoy the game and the scene.
“When the clock goes off and your transitioning into the overtimes, that’s when you’re (saying to the team) ‘Are you ready? This is fun. This is (the) playoffs,’” she said. “But during, I don’t know if you have a time to relax.”
There was little time for anyone in Quinn Coliseum to breathe until the Mountaineers, buoyed by a 42-point night from Maya Ah You-Dias, managed to pull away in the second overtime for a 96-87 win over the rival Coyotes in the Cascade Collegiate Conference Tournament semifinals.
“All I can say is anything can happen in (the) playoffs. Both teams are playing for something, and I give respect to C of I,” Weissenfluh said. “They played tough. They played strong. Mackenzie Royce, their point guard, played her heart out.”
The Yotes almost sprung a major upset over their Interstate 84 rivals, but big plays from EOU down the stretch, including from Ah You-Dias and freshman Beverly Slater, helped EOU reach tonight’s championship against Corban.
“I’m just proud of C of I for how hard they fought (and) proud of my girls for coming together at the end,” said Ah You-Dias, who added 15 rebounds. “A lot of people stepped up. (I) couldn’t have asked for a better game.”
Ah You-Dias had 15 of her points in the overtime sessions, including a pair of 3-pointers in the second OT to give Eastern an 85-81 lead with 2:27 to play. Slater, who had 12 points, 10 boards and five assists, converted a rebound and putback in between the triples, and later followed two Ah You-Dias free throws with two of her own for an 89-83 lead with just 1:04 to go. EOU then went 7-for-10 from the line in the final minute to finally put the Yotes away.
“It was very intense. Everyone was trying to stay focused. That was the key thing,” Slater said. “Don’t get out of your head, stay together as a team. It made my heart stop for a minute.”
The hearts of most of the near-capacity crowd stopped multiple times throughout the night, especially during the game’s numerous wild swings late in the fourth quarter. C of I led as much as 57-52 on a Jocelyn Cook-Cox jumper with 5:44 to play before four straight Emma Logan points and an Ah You-Dias jumper put Eastern back ahead. The teams traded free throws to get to 61-59 EOU before Slater had what was the first of several vital hoops.
With just one second on the shot clock, Slater caught an inbounds pass from Logan and put in a short jumper in one motion for a four-point lead with 1:44 to play.
C of I, though, wouldn’t go away.
An Alyssa Case layup and two Royce free throws tied the score at 63-63. Out of a timeout, Logan took a pass from Slater on a set play and got to the rim for a layup and the lead with 24 seconds to play and sent the crowd into a frenzy. But Emily Harwood rebounded her own miss on the other end to re-tie the game at 65-65 with 11 seconds left, and a last attempt at the win by EOU missed to force overtime.
A 3-point play, free throw and 3-pointer by Ah You-Dias helped give Eastern a 72-70 lead in the first extra session. Makenna Schritter pulled C of I even with a pair of free throws, then two Harwood free throws gave the Yotes a 76-75 lead with 1:07 on the clock. Two Maren Herrud free throws put the Mountaineers up before Harwood tied it at 77-77. But the teams traded turnovers in the final 22 seconds and neither got a final shot off.
That’s when Ah You-Dias scored early and often in the second OT to finally help put C of I away. Weissenfluh said the senior put the team on her back down the stretch.
“That’s what she did in the second OT. That’s what she did to even get us to OT,” the coach said. “She made big-time shots.”
Added Ah You-Dias: “We switched me into the post, which was opening up a lot of things. I was able to see the floor a lot better, and luckily my shot started falling.”
The game featured 15 ties and 11 lead changes, and after EOU jumped out to an early 17-10 lead, neither team led by more than six until Slater’s free throws late in the second OT.
Slater said the key for EOU was “us sticking together as one team, being able to communicate on the court, talking on defense, and having a great coach to control us.”
Herrud added 14 points and Logan scored 12.
For C of I, Royce and Case both had 15 points, and Harwood and Madison Holly both scored 14.
Eastern (27-3 overall) will aim for its third straight CCC tournament title when it hosts Corban tonight. The game, which tips off just after 7 p.m., will also be televised on ROOT Sports.