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SOU opens tournament by hosting Warner Pac

ASHLAND — Southern Oregon's place in the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament looks secure for the fourth year in a row after another distinguished regular season, but the 10th-ranked Raiders still have plenty to play for until then in the Cascade Conference Championships.

The Raiders are 25-3 overall and finished 17-3 in conference play to earn the No. 2 seed in the eight-team CCC tournament. They open with a quarterfinal matchup against No. 7 seed Warner Pacific (12-18, 8-12) at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ashland High’s gym.

Warner Pacific fought its way into the postseason by winning twice on the road over the weekend to end a six-game skid and force a three-way tie for seventh in the standings.

The CCC gets two automatic bids to the 32-team national tournament. The first was claimed by regular-season champion Eastern Oregon, and the second will go to the tourney champ — unless EOU claims that title, too, in which case it would go to SOU by virtue of owning the No. 2 seed.

The national tournament is March 7-13 in Sioux City, Iowa, and the field will be announced Feb. 28.

Due to their ranking, the Raiders are in position to at least receive an at-large berth. A new poll will be released Tuesday, and the deciding poll will be released the same day the field is revealed.

The CCC tournament is not bracketed, meaning the lowest remaining seed will be matched up with the highest remaining seed in each round. If the Raiders defeat Warner Pacific, they'll host a semifinal at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

The championship game, to be hosted by the top remaining seed, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday and will be broadcast live on Root Sports Northwest.

Since the tournament started in 1995, the Raiders have won it six times: in 1998, '99, 2002, '03, '08 and '16. SOU defeated Oregon Tech for the 2016 title, but Eastern Oregon knocked off the Raiders in last year's final, 74-69, after the teams finished as co-champions in the regular season.

The Raiders have qualified for 12 consecutive CCC tournaments and won five straight quarterfinal games. They're also 3-0 against Warner Pacific, all in quarterfinals, though they haven't met the Knights in the postseason since 2013.

SOU has won 11 straight against Warner Pacific and leads the all-time series, 37-16.

This season's first matchup, on Dec. 29 in Ashland, was a 95-68 decision in which the Raiders had a 26-4 advantage in fastbreak points, hit 10 3-pointers and were led in scoring by Ariel Augustine (18) and Sophia Altemus (14).

On Jan. 27 in Portland, SOU won 84-55 by forcing 31 turnovers and getting hot again beyond the arc with 12 triples. Augustine had her first double-double and Remi Mejia scored 19 in the game.

Among conference leaders, Mejia ended CCC play second in points (17.9), second in steals (3.1), 13th in assists (3.1), second in 3-pointers per game (3.4) and 15th in offensive rebounds (2.1).

She's seven points away from becoming the 15th Raider to score 500 in a season, and with 86 3-pointers she needs 14 more to match the single-season SOU record established by Ashley Claussen two years ago.

Toria Bradford eclipsed 300 assists for her career last weekend, becoming the 10th Raider to do so. In CCC play, she was 18th in points (11.6), fifth in assists (4.2), sixth in steals (2.4) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2-to-1).

The Raiders average 74 field-goal attempts per game. Their opponents average 52.

SOU will call Ashland High’s gym home for the last time in the tournament before finally moving in to the all-new Lithia Motors Pavilion next season. Since settling in at Ashland High, the Raiders have gone 34-3 at home.