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3rd-place Raiders welcome Multnomah, WPac

ASHLAND — Riding the momentum of its two most impressive road wins of the season, the Southern Oregon women’s basketball team returns to Lithia Motors Pavilion this week feeling increasingly optimistic about its postseason prospects.

The Raiders, standing in third place at 17-8 overall and 13-5 in the Cascade Conference, will finish the regular season tonight against Multnomah (5-20, 2-16) and Saturday against Warner Pacific (12-14, 9-9), looking to complete sweeps of both teams. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. both nights, and fourth-year Raiders Daranda Hinkey and Delaney Sparling will be recognized following Saturday’s game as part of Senior Night festivities.

Playoff picture

The eight-team CCC Tournament begins Tuesday night, and the Raiders have already clinched a quarterfinal home game that will tip off at 7 p.m. They can do no worse than the No. 3 seed — Corban and Oregon Tech are both two games back, but SOU owns tiebreakers over both — and can steal the No. 2 seed if they pair a sweep of the Portland schools with two Northwest Christian losses.

The Beacons and Eastern Oregon are tied in first place at 15-3 and will go head-to-head Saturday night.

But if NCU loses that matchup and Friday’s game against College of Idaho, the Raiders would have the tiebreaker based on records against teams standing at .500 or better in CCC play.

The regular-season champion gets the CCC’s first automatic bid to the NAIA Division II National Tournament, while the second goes to the CCC Tournament champ. If the same team wins both, the second bid goes to the other tournament finalist. The semifinal round is set for next Friday and the title game is slated for Monday, March 2.

Top 25 watch

In Wednesday’s newest edition of the Top 25 coaches’ poll, Northwest Christian climbed one spot to No. 16 and Eastern Oregon entered the rankings for the first time since December at No. 25. At-large bids for the national tournament will be awarded based on the final ranking, to be released on March 4. Southeastern (Fla.) is currently the unanimous No. 1.

Last time out

SOU will have been off for nine days when it takes the court Friday but is coming off of its best offensive showing since the 2016-17 season - a 94-89 win at Oregon Tech in which the Raiders shot 55 percent from the field and 13-of-25 from 3. Dominique Harding led five players in double figures with 19 points and Daranda Hinkey went 3-of-4 from 3 with 13 points, helping SOU complete its first regular-season sweep of OIT in four years. In their previous outing on Feb. 8, the Raiders ended a 56-52 win at Corban on a 12-2 run, avenging a 21-point home loss to the Warriors in January and a 24-point loss at Corban 24 hours earlier.

Briefly

— The Raiders have played more than two-third of their schedule away from Ashland and are 11-6 in those games. In conference play, they went 8-3 on the road.

— Hinkey and Sparling have been a part of 88 victories in four seasons at SOU, and both are perennial academic all-stars. Hinkey enters the weekend fifth on the team’s career list for 3-point makes with 163 and 14th in assists with 259, and has also accumulated 847 points and 129 steals. Sparling sits at eighth on the school’s 3-point list with 136, and has done her best work of the season while averaging nine points per game over SOU’s last three.

— During Alex Carlson’s five seasons as head coach, the Raiders are 53-9 at home with no losses to teams with sub-.500 records.

Dominique Harding’s average of 13.8 points remains the highest for any Raider underclassman since 1994-95. She’s scored 18 or more on eight occasions and she’s averaging 16.9 on 53-percent shooting at home.

— The Raiders are 6-0 when they connect on at least 10 3-pointers.

— On the CCC leaderboard, three Raiders are among the top-10 in steals: Syd’Nee Fryer (2.2, 4th), Kenadee Honaker (1.9, 6th) and Harding (1.8, 10th). Fryer also ranks second in rebounds per game (8.1) and is 48th nationally in that category.

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