Raiders advance in National Tournament after clutch finish

Raiders advance in National Tournament after clutch finish

LUBBOCK, Texas - With their season on the brink, the Raiders got 11 points and three turnovers in 60 seconds.

Three Rivers limited the top-scoring offense in the nation to one field goal in the final 2 minutes and 50 seconds to rally from seven points down and win 76-74 in the first round of the National Tournament.

The Raiders' 11-point run, precisely when they needed it most, was their biggest of the game.

The No. 9 seed Raiders will now face No. 8 Casper College at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Eastern Oklahoma State committed eight turnovers in the first quarter, and the Raiders built a double-digit lead. Hya Haywood made a 3 early in the second quarter that put the Raiders ahead by 15, the game's biggest lead.

The Mountaineers chipped away and retook the lead in the third quarter. As the Raiders continued to struggle to force turnovers, a hallmark of their defense that's third in the country in steals per game, they fell behind by six midway through the fourth quarter.

Eastern Oklahoma State was still ahead by seven as the clock ticked past the 1:30 mark.

"I told the girls that we're going to win this thing," Three Rivers coach Alex Wiggs said. "We've been down in games before. I know how well we can shoot it, I know how well we can lock in defensively, that we can get stops, and I honestly felt like we can win this game."

The Mountaineers worked their shot clock and air-balled a 3 for a shot clock violation.

The Raiders quickly brought the ball up the floor, and Chaylea Mosby, who was 0 for 8 shooting, swished a 3.

"I was just staying confident in myself, and my teammates, I know they were still confident in me. That's all that matters, hitting the shot when it counts," Mosby said. "There's just something about this team. We're going to do whatever it takes to win."

In their 2-2-1 full-court press, the Raiders drew an offensive foul in the backcourt.

The offense set up and got the ball to Joi Montgomery on the block, and she made it a one-point game.

The Raiders then got a quick steal off the press, got a kickout pass to Karlee Holland, and she buried a clutch 3 to retake the lead.

"I was excited that we got ahead and I knew we were going to pull through when that happened," Holland said. "(Coach Wiggs) has a lot of confidence in us. If he thinks we can do it, we believe in ourselves that we can do it. We just get hyped up when he does that."

After another stop, Montgomery grabbed an offensive rebound and score to put Three Rivers ahead by four with 31 seconds left.

The Mountaineers were able to get a 3 and fouled Myia Yelder with 12 seconds left.

She made one, and Eastern Oklahoma State tried for a corner 3 and missed as time expired.

While Eastern Oklahoma State was able to cut down on their turnovers after the first quarter, the Raiders still got 31 points off 16 turnovers for a plus-15 point advantage.

"One thing we knew about them coming in, is that they were really athletic and their guards were really good," Wiggs said. "I thought they did a good job of spreading us out in our zone. - Our zone is not necessarily meant to trap you, speed you up or anything like that. It is honestly the complete opposite. We want to slow you down and we're going to force you into decisions. Whenever you face teams with good guards."

Yelder led the Raiders with 17 points after going 7 for 13 on free throws. The Raiders were 13 for 25 from the line, while the Mountaineers were 10 for 15.

Autumn Dodd was 5 for 5 shooting off the bench for 13 points. Haywood also had 13 points on 50% shooting, and Montgomery added 11 points on 50% shooting.

Ahniya Melton had 10 rebounds and led the Raiders in plus-minus with a plus-8. Not one bench player for the Raiders finished with a negative plus-minus, while the Mountaineers' two bench players were a combined minus-17.

"It's been a staple of our all year long. Every single person, 1-15 (including our managers), do a phenomenal job of buying into their role and doing what we need to do to be successful. And I think that showed tonight with how our bench stepped up in those big moments," Wiggs said.

Added Dodd, "If somebody is down, we pick them up for the most part ... If somebody is having an off game, somebody else is going to pick up the slack. We're really good about that."

Holland had three assists and three steals to lead the team and added nine points after going 3 for 7 on 3-pointers.

Shanequa Henry had 19 points to lead the Mountaineers, who played eight players while the Raiders played 11.

Crystal Ortiz and Tyia Treleaven each had 11 points, and Tilan Nolan got 10.


Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic