Reinhardt's Becca Cheeks

Reinhardt's Becca Cheeks (Reinhardt Athletics)

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Nineteen first-half points by First Team All-Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) Eagle and former Sonoraville HIgh standout Rebecca Cheeks kept No. 7 Reinhardt standing tall against second-seeded Eastern Oregon in the 27th Annual NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by Mercy Medical Center and Seaboard Triumph Foods, but a strong second-half performance by the Mounties propelled them to the second round over the Eagles, 83-52, Thursday afternoon in Sioux City, Iowa.

The hard-fought defeat in Reinhardt’s third-ever appearance in the National Championship brings the season to a close at 26-10.

The first half action was fast-paced on both ends of the floor, as the Eagles and Mounties poured in basket and basket to a thrilling 46-40 score at the break (26-23 at the end of the first period). The Eagles – the co-champions of the AAC – took their first lead of the game mid-second quarter on back-to-back buckets by Cheeks, who was single-handedly willing her squad to a 37-32 advantage with 4:08 left on the clock until halftime.

Eastern Oregon (31-2) then showed why it is one of the best teams in NAIA women’s basketball and the champions of the Cascade Collegiate Conference, as the Mounties finished the second stanza on a 14-3 run.

The positive momentum would continue for the higher seed into the second half, as Eastern Oregon clamped down on the defensive end and allowed only 12 second-half points to the Reinhardt offense. A key factor in the lack of production in the scoring department was an injury to Cheeks at the 6:05 mark in the third quarter – she did not return to the game.

The Eagles were outscored 51-15 in the final 24:08 as the Mounties have now won 25 games in-a-row.

Cheeks had a team-best 19 points (all in the first half) and nearly doubled her season output of 11.1 points each time out. She also pulled down a squad-high eight rebounds and blocked two shots in just over 21 minutes of action. Sara Byers and Jaleya Mosley netted nine points each, as the trio combined for 37 points.

As a team, Reinhardt shot 33.3 percent from the floor (19-for-57) and made eight shots from 3-point land.