Southern Oregon’s season ended Wednesday night after No. 6-ranked Westmont (Calif.) took over in the second half en route to a 63-49 Round of 32 triumph in the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championships at Murchison Gymnasium.
The Warriors (25-3 overall), seeded No. 2 in the Naismith quadrant of the 64-team bracket, ran their home winning streak to 25 games and advanced to the tournament’s final site for the third consecutive season. They didn’t lead until the third quarter, where freshman guard Bailey Fong provided the momentum-swinging spark with five 3-pointers.
Fong got just her second start of the season in place of Laila Saenz, the Warriors’ second-leading scorer who suffered an injury in Tuesday’s blowout of Antelope Valley (Calif.). She capitalized on the opportunity with a season-high 17 points and ignited a 12-0 run with three 3s in a span of two minutes to put Westmont up 41-33 and in control for good.
The No. 7-seeded Raiders, less than 24 hours removed from an historic comeback that saw them turn a 29-point deficit into a 68-66 win over Wayland Baptist (Texas), wrapped their season in the Round of 32 for the second year in a row. They went 24-8, finishing with the 12th-highest win total in team history.
They scored eight points in the first 15 minutes against WBU but came out with force against the Warriors, leading by as many as seven in the second quarter and taking a 30-27 edge into the break. Their top scorers, Kalei Iwami, Brianna Phiakhamngon and Kami Walk, combined for 19 points in the first half and were limited to two buckets combined in the second as SOU went 5-of-23 from the field.
Phiakhamngon finished with 11 points, Walk went for nine and 11 rebounds, and Iwami scored eight on 3-of-5 shooting.
The Warriors’ backcourt carried them all night. In addition to Fong, point guard Stefanie Berberabe – the 2020-21 NAIA Player of the Year – and wing Kate Goostrey also totaled 17 points apiece. The trio combined for eight steals, helping to force the Raiders into 19 turnovers.
Raiders starting forward Clara Robbins added four points and five rebounds, but an injury took her out of the game for good on a sequence that ended with Fong’s fifth 3-pointer, which made it 47-38 with a minute to go in the third.
Westmont advanced to play No. 3 seed Marian (Ind.) on Monday in Sioux City, Iowa. The Warriors are two years removed from their last national title.
The game was the last in the SOU careers of Iwami, Phiakhamngon and Danasia Allison, who came up with two steals.
Content used with permission, compliments of SOU Sports
Photo courtesy of Westmont Sports Info.
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