SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Once Remi Mejia got into a rhythm, there was nothing that the University of Antelope Valley could do about it.
After being shut out in the first quarter, Mejia proceeded to go on an absolute tear over the course of the next 30 minutes. On the back of Mejia’s game-high 28 points, the No. 3-seeded Southern Oregon University women’s basketball team opened the NAIA Division II National Championship with a 77-66 win over No. 7 seed Antelope Valley at Tyson Events Center on Wednesday night.
In a back-and-forth game that saw neither team lead by more than seven points until the closing 20 seconds, the Raiders needed every one of Mejia’s biggest point totals of the season.
And because of it, they live to see at least one more game at the national tournament.
Southern Oregon improved to 28-4 on the season with the victory and will play No. 2 seed Dakota Wesleyan — which beat seventh-seeded Indiana East 78-62 — at 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time on Friday morning with a spot in the Naismith Bracket final on the line.
In total, seven of the eight higher seeds were victorious on the first day of the 32-team, week-long national tournament.
You can most certainly throw the Raiders into that group that advanced to the second round.
In a third quarter where Mejia scored 13 of SOU’s 20 points, it was her 3-pointer with under three minutes that gave the Raiders a 53-52 lead.
Southern Oregon was never on the wrong side of the score after that point.
The Raiders only extended their lead from there, getting some much-needed breathing room as the fourth quarter went on.
After re-taking the lead once and for all, Southern Oregon outscored Antelope Valley — which claimed the CalPac regular-season and tournament title and was making its first-ever appearance at nationals on Wednesday night — 24-14 the rest of the way.
Mejia hit three of her five 3-pointers in the game during her big third quarter. Along with Casey Williams and Destinee Jones, Mejia also pulled down a game-high seven rebounds.
Mejia’s backcourt mate and fellow first-team all-Cascade Conference selection, senior point guard Toria Bradford, also scored in double figures on the night, finishing with 16 points and dishing out a game-high six assists. SOU junior forward Ariel Augustine added 11 points in the win.
UAV’s Samantha Earl record a team-high 20 points, while Ahjana Jones added 15 points off the bench for the Pioneers, who end their season with a 22-7 record.
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.