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No. 7 Raiders close out regular season at home

ASHLAND — A well-timed layoff of nine days enabled the Southern Oregon men’s basketball team to recharge for a final push into the playoffs. This weekend at Lithia Motors Pavilion, the seventh-ranked Raiders will attempt to solidify their favorable position as the Cascade Conference regular season concludes against Multnomah and Warner Pacific.

SOU (20-6 overall, 14-4 CCC) hosts NAIA leading scorer Justin Martin and the Lions (15-13, 7-11) tonight and the Knights (14-13, 9-9) on Saturday, tipping off at 7:30 p.m. both nights. The Raiders have already secured a home date for the quarterfinal round of the CCC Tournament, and with one more win would clinch second place and homecourt advantage through the semifinal round.

While SOU moved up one spot to No. 7 in Wednesday’s new edition of the NAIA Division II coaches’ poll, College of Idaho took over No. 1 for the first time this season and Oregon Tech ascended four spots to No. 8. At 18-0 in the CCC, C of I has already clinched the regular-season title and is two wins away from becoming the first team in conference history to run the table.

Another poll will be released next week prior to conference tournaments around the country, and the final poll — which will decide at-large bids and seeding for the NAIA DII National Tournament — is set to come out March 4. The Raiders have only taken a top-10 ranking into the tournament once, at No. 3 in 1999. When they made their two national quarterfinal appearances, they were No. 11 in 2005 and No. 21 in ‘15.

Coming up

All games in the eight-team CCC Tournament are tentatively scheduled to start at 7 p.m. local time. The Raiders will welcome in an opponent yet to be determined next Wednesday, and the remaining teams will be reseeded for Saturday’s semifinals with the two highest seeds hosting. The championship game — which will determine the CCC’s second automatic bid to the national tournament — is slated for Tuesday, March 3. The next day, the 32-team field will be announced for the national tourney, to be held in Sioux Falls, S.D., from March 11-17.

Last time out

The Raiders won two of three on the road since their last appearance in Ashland, starting with a 94-66 pounding of Northwest Christian and an 86-78 win at Corban. Last Tuesday, they settled for a regular-season split with Oregon Tech as the Owls claimed an 82-78 decision in Klamath Falls. Tate Hoffman had 22 points and nine boards, but the Raiders didn’t have enough firepower to match Mitchell Fink (28 points, 9 assists) as their winning streak ended at five games.

Senior moments

Prior to Saturday’s matchup, SOU will recognize six seniors playing their final regular-season game, including five who have been Raiders for the duration of their careers:

— Kaj Bansen came to SOU prior to last season via Linn-Benton C.C. and made his mark as a 3-point specialist, totaling 44 makes from deep in 44 appearances.

— In his first year as a starter, Aaron Borich has transformed into one of the CCC’s top guards — ranking 17th in points per game (13.2), fifth in assists (4.5) and fourth in 3-pointers (75). On SOU’s career lists, he’s 13th in assists (260) and 12th in 3s (125).

— Among SOU’s most reliable point producers since entering the fray, Conor Carroll has made regular appearances on the CCC leaderboard for long-range accuracy. He owns the 11th-most 3-pointers in team history (132) and is up to 796 career points.

— Kerry Cook is the team’s lone fifth-year senior, having been around for 103 wins. The Academic All-CCC selection earned his biggest role this season, averaging 11 minutes per appearance.

— Tate Hoffman is working on an all-conference caliber campaign, posting top-10 circuit marks in scoring (17.5), rebounding (6.9) and blocks (0.9). He’s the 13th player in program history to register at least 1,400 points (1,403), is ninth on the 3-point list (144) and four blocks away from 100. He’s hit double figures in all but two games this season and recorded four 20-10 games.

— A two-time honorable mention All-CCC selection, Jordan Hunt ranks 15th in career points (1,386), eighth in rebounds (716) and second in blocks (153) at SOU, needing 16 more for the school record. His current field-goal percentage (57.7) is second-best in the CCC, and he’s up to 14 career double-doubles.

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