SIOUX CITY, IA – (Box Score) The night-cap for the first day of competition in the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship proved to be a hard-fought, gritty contest with the chance to advance to Friday on the line. The No. 3 Eastern Oregon Mountaineers faced-off against No. 6 Dickinson State (N.D.) in a late-night game but the players did not play as if it were 11 p.m. at night. In the end, Eastern Oregon extended its lead enough in the closing moments to earn the 80-71 victory.
Eastern Oregon, the Cascade Collegiate Conference regular-season champion, improved to 29-4 on the year. With the win, the Mountaineers will advance to play No. 2 Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) (27-6), who picked up a 66-54 win over Milligan (Tenn.) in the game prior. The contest will tip at 1:45 p.m. on Friday.
The entirety of the game saw both teams trying to gain the advantage over each other, with the largest lead only sitting at 13 points in favor of Eastern Oregon at the 8:43 mark in the fourth quarter. However, in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers fought-off a stifling Blue Hawk squad in the late minutes to get ahead and earn the win. With Dickinson State closing in and cutting the lead to three points, Eastern Oregon relied on perfect timing with important shots to get ahead and start to pull away. In the end, the Mountaineers were fouled and headed to the line multiple times in the closing minutes to extend their lead and seal the deal.
Eastern Oregon was led by Stormee Van Belle who connected on 14 points and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds. Common leader Maya Ah You also netted 14 points while earning five rebounds, respectively. From beyond the arc, Eastern Oregon was good for .325 on 13 3-pointers made.
For Dickinson State, two leaders earned above 20 points with senior Ashley Bentz- Laub cashing in on a team-high 28 points with four rebounds, and Lorna Shepherd going for 25 points and grabbing seven of her own rebounds. Megan Klein hauled in a game high 18 rebounds.
In their 10th appearance in Sioux City for the NAIA National Championship, Eastern Oregon now improves their all-time record at the Tyson to 6-9. For the Blue Hawks, making their fifth appearance, they go just below .500 with their record at 4-5 all-time.
The Blue Hawks finish their season with a 23-8 overall record.