SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Thanks to a strong defensive effort and efficient shooting in the second half, the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team downed Southern Oregon University, 76-61 in the second round of the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship, presented by Mercy Medical Center and Seaboard Triumph Foods, Friday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
The Tigers got their offense rolling out of the gates as they took an early 8-2 lead following a Kynedi Cheeseman (Alexandria, S.D.) 3-pointer. On the next DWU possession, Ashley Bray (Anoka, Minn.) missed a three-point attempt, but Sarah Carr (Huron, S.D.) grabbed the offense board and connected on a 3-pointer to give the Tigers an 11-4 lead.
DWU scored five-straight points midway through the first quarter that was capped off by another Cheeseman 3-pointer, as the Tigers took a 19-13 lead after one quarter. The Raiders began the second quarter on a 7-3 run to cut the DWU lead to 22-20. After a pair of Rylie Osthus (De Smet, S.D.) free throws and a Carr jump shot, DWU held the lead by four points. However, SOU took its first lead of the game, 29-28 on a deep two-point shot. It was back-and-forth for the remainder of the half until Amber Bray (Anoka, Minn.) knocked down a shot from beyond the arc at the buzzer to give DWU a 33-31 lead at the break.
The Tigers opened the second half on an 8-2 run that gave DWU a 41-33 lead. The Raiders answered with a quick 6-0 burst of their own and knocked in a 3-pointer to pull within one point. With 2:29 left in the third quarter, Ashley Bray connected on a mid-range jumper. On defense, Amber Bray blocked a Southern Oregon shot, which turned into a Cheeseman 3-pointer on the other end. The Tigers made nine of their first 10 shots of the second half to take a 55-49 lead heading to the final stanza.
DWU picked up where they left off to begin the fourth quarter as Ashley Bray found nothing but net on a three-point attempt. Both teams traded baskets midway through the fourth quarter, until Cheeseman made four-consecutive free throws to give DWU a 10-point lead. With under three minutes to play, Osthus drained a shot from beyond the arc. On the following defensive possession, she blocked a layup attempt and grabbed the rebound to deny the layup. Free throws and a strong defensive effort down the stretch helped push the Tigers to victory and a secure a spot in the quarterfinals.
"That was the most physical game I have ever been a part of," women's head basketball coach Jason Christensen said. "I thought our kids overcame that, played hard and held their composure. I am proud of them for that."
Cheeseman led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the free-throw line. Amber Bray tallied 19 points and nine rebounds, while twin sister Ashley Bray added a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Osthus chipped in 10 points, five rebounds and four assists, as Carr notched nine points and six rebounds off the bench. DWU shot 49 percent from the field and 47 percent from three-point range, while holding the Raiders to just 21 percent shooting from downtown. The Tigers also finished with 38 rebounds to 25 rebounds by SOU.
DWU will play in the quarterfinals against the No. 1 seed Southeastern University (Fla.) at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.