Unlike Friday’s double overtime thriller, Monday’s Cascade Collegiate Conference championship game provided little drama.
A stout defensive effort, a big first half from its star player and a balanced second-half attack boosted the Eastern Oregon women’s basketball team to its third straight CCC tournament title, 75-60, over Corban in front of a capacity crowd at Quinn Coliseum.
“I don’t feel like teams get lucky enough to be that successful that often. It’s been the coolest experience,” said senior Maren Herrud, who scored 17 points.
EOU, which trailed for just nine seconds, was already ahead by double figures entering the second after three Emma Logan free throws capped a 7-0 run to end the first quarter.
That’s when Maya Ah You-Dias, who scored a game-high 27 points, broke the game open. The senior scored eight straight Mountaineer points to open the second, then hit a pull-up jumper and a 3-pointer to give EOU its largest lead, 35-12, with 5:19 to play in the first half.
It was the defense, though, that helped set the early tone, forcing Corban to take several tough shots, many with the shot clock winding down. A big piece of the scouting report was focused on Corban’s Jordan Woodvine and on help defense.
“Our team worked hard to play tough defense,” Ah You-Dias said. “They were intense. They adjusted to the calls that were being made. They adjusted to how players were playing. We played the scouting report really well and went in and executed the game plan the coach had. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Woodvine, who entered averaging 18.7 points per game, was held to seven points. Eastern also rotated on its help defense into the right position on numerous occasions, resulting in the team forcing seven offensive fouls on Corban.
“We just stayed focused so we were all locked in,” said Julia Hanni, who took three charges on defense. “We knew as soon as (Woodvine) got the ball we were right there and ready to take the charge.”
It was a stark contrast to the semifinal game against College of Idaho, when the Mountaineers never held a lead larger than seven points until the final minute. Monday, the team was ready from the start.
Head Coach Anji Weissenfluh said her squad’s nothing-to-lose attitude was the difference.
“Tonight they relaxed,” she said. “I think they were prepared. They took a deep breath, and I think they enjoyed where they were at, what they got to play in front of (with the vibrant crowd) and they seized the moment.”
Corban did close the gap to 13 by halftime, then got as close at 42-33 on a Jordan Rasberry 3-pointer early in the third before Eastern finally put the game out of reach, primarily by crashing the offensive boards. Rebound putbacks by Jane Nelson, Ah You-Dias and Beverly Slater put Eastern up 51-38, then nine points from Herrud — including a 3-pointer just before the third-quarter buzzer — and a trey from Logan gave EOU what proved to be an insurmountable lead, 63-44, after three. The Warriors got no closer than 15 points in the fourth.
Nelson added eight points, Slater had seven points and eight rebounds and Madison Crews dished out 10 assists and grabbed four steals.
“This feeling is indescribable,” Crews said. “I’ve had the luxury of playing at a really good junior college and then just blessed to be here with such a great coach (and) great program. I literally feel nothing but happy right now, and proud to be on this team.”
It was a moment, though, that was new for Hanni.
“I come from a losing program (and) it wasn’t much that we were losing, but it’s the team spirit (at EOU) and how everyone treats each other and how we are as teammates,” Hanni said.
The largest crowd of the season also had an impact on the game, which didn’t go unnoticed.
“(I) loved every minute of it, not only as a coach, but as an athletic director,” Weissenfluh said. “To see that environment here at Eastern, I was pretty proud.”
The crowd treated Ah You-Dias, who played her final game at Quinn in her sixth year in the program, to a special moment, serenading her with “MVP” chants when she came out with 1:11 to play.
“I got teary eyed on the bench there,” she said of when she came out for the final time. “I was pretty emotional.”
Emily Yost led the Warriors with 18 points and Treasure Farmer had 14 points.
Eastern (28-3 overall) now waits to see who it plays in the first round of the NAIA National Championship Tournament next week in Sioux City, Iowa. The field will be announced later today.
“We’re going to enjoy this one for a while, but then we’ll get prepared,” the coach said.