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Raiders' national title hopes dashed

POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. — Southern Oregon’s surprise run through the NAIA Division II men’s basketball tournament came to an end Saturday afternoon with a 79-71 quarterfinal loss to second-seeded Embry-Riddle (Fla.) at Keeter Gymnasium.

Just as they’d done in the first two rounds of the tourney, the 21st-ranked Raiders — who were the only unseeded team to reach the Elite Eight — played much of the day from behind. However, when they took the lead this time, there was too much time left for the Eagles to work.

Eric Thompson’s triple with 8:46 left, which was SOU’s third straight 3-point make, gave the Raiders their biggest edge at 59-55. That’s when the Eagles went on a 14-1 run, scoring on seven of their next eight possession to go up nine points with 4:09 left.

Thompson’s free throws and a Tim Weber jump hook cut into the lead, and Ben DeSaulnier’s free throws with 58 seconds left made it 73-69, but the Raiders never got any closer in a contest that featured 18 lead changes and eight ties.

They finished the season with a mark of 26-10, setting a school record for wins with the program’s second trip to the quarterfinals. They upset last year’s runner-up, 10th-seeded Midland (Neb.), 73-71, in Thursday’s first round with Jordan West’s last-second layup, and in Friday’s Sweet 16 defeated 24th-ranked Grace (Ind.), 68-62, by going ahead with 38.5 seconds remaining.

Embry-Riddle, the Sun Conference regular-season and tournament champion, will ride an 18-game win streak into the Final Four with a Monday night matchup against third-seeded Cornerstone (Ind.).

Thompson, SOU’s all-time leading scorer, finished his career with a 26-point effort, going 5-for-8 from 3-point range. The Raiders were 11-for-27 from beyond the arc as a team, also making three straight in the first half — one by DeSaulnier, the next by Kenny Meyer and another by West — to go up 30-29.

But the Raiders couldn’t stop Cesar Pastrana, a 6-foot-8, 275-pounder who tied Thompson for game-high honors with 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting. The Eagle backcourt of Dalton Barnes and DeForest Carter scored 14 apiece, and Carter had Riddle’s only five assists.

It was down low where the Eagles hurt SOU the most. They had a 46-18 advantage in points in the paint, a 17-6 edge in second-chance points and won the rebounding battle, 30-20, with 13 on the offensive end.

Weber, SOU’s only senior besides Thompson and the NAIA’s leader in assists, had nine points, three assists and six rebounds, but with 13:31 left was called for an offensive foul — his fourth — which sent him to the bench for the next nine minutes as the Eagles made their run.

DeSaulnier scored 12 points, while West added 10 to bring his tournament total to a team-best 63 points. Meyer hit a couple big 3s and scored eight points.

Thompson, a three-time All-American, finished his career with 2,465 points. Weber shattered the single-season SOU assist record, ending at 281 (the previous record was 200), and also set a program benchmark with four triple-doubles.

Thompson and Weber, a couple of Roseburg products who are also Capital One Academic All-Americans, leave as SOU’s winningest players ever with 90 wins in four seasons.