Southern Oregon University and Evergreen State both have momentum. They're both back where they want to be. And they both face the possibility of abruptly losing playing privileges in the Cascade Collegiate Conference women's basketball playoffs.
Fourth-seeded SOU (23-7 overall, 12-6 CCC) and the fifth-seeded Geoducks (14-11, 10-8) meet at 7 tonight at Bob Riehm Arena for the tournament's quarterfinal round.
The Raider men will also host a playoff quarterfinal on Wednesday against Northwest Christian at 7 p.m.
Tickets will be sold starting at 5:30 p.m. each night, and passes, including season passes, are not valid.
The women's game will be the first home playoff contest for the Raiders in five years. Evergreen, which registered its first winning CCC record in nine seasons thanks to an upset last Friday at third-seeded College of Idaho, will be going for its first ever CCC tournament win in its seventh try.
At stake for the winner of the single-elimination tournament is an automatic bid to the 32-team NAIA championships.
The Raiders won the first two games between the teams handily, 86-72 at ESC on Jan. 10 and 73-62 in Ashland on Feb. 8, and led by double digits by halftime of both.
The Geoducks shot an aggregate of 34.5 percent in the losses, and leading scorer Sammi Clark averaged 16.5 points but went 12-for-42 from the field. SOU averaged 45.5 points inside and outrebounded the Geoducks 101-68, taking advantage of an ESC frontcourt with just one player taller than 5-foot-9.
SOU has won 14 of the last 17 games in the series and owns a 24-9 all-time advantage.
With 81 more points, SOU will have scored more (2,644) than any team in school history. The Raiders were already the highest-scoring team in CCC regular season history, averaging 84.2 points per game against conference opponents. Just two years ago, Northwest University's 68.3-point average led the CCC. This year, that mark would have ranked seventh.
SOU forward Allison Gida capped an all-conference caliber season by receiving her second CCC player of the week award on Monday. In the final weekend of the regular season, she averaged 21 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, and on Saturday she tied the SOU single-game record with nine steals against Concordia.
She finished the CCC slate third in points (15.6), fifth in rebounds (8.4) and 12th in field-goal percentage (47.2).
The Raiders' Kristen Schoenherr scored in double figures in 28 of 30 games during the regular season. She was sixth in the CCC in points (15.2), third in field-goal percentage (55.9), seventh in steals (1.8), 10th in assists (3.6), 15th in free-throw percentage (75.3) and 19th in rebounds (4.8).
The Southern Oregon men (22-8, 11-7) will be in a must-win position Wednesday night and face a Northwest Christian team (16-12, 10-8) perhaps most responsible for putting the Raiders in that position.
With losses over the weekend at Warner Pacific and Concordia, the Raiders fell into a second-place tie with Concordia but lost the tiebreaker and settled for the tournament's No. 3 seed. A loss to the Beacons would likely ruin their chance for an at-large bid to the 32-team NAIA championships and spell the end of the season.
The Beacons, who are back in the postseason after a three-year drought as the CCC's No. 6 seed, are looking for their first playoff win since 2009. Their two comeback wins against SOU — 75-71 on Jan. 3 in Ashland, and 93-84 in overtime on Feb. 1 in Eugene — set SOU back in a big way and set the stage for the final matchup.
The winner of the CCC tournament will get an automatic bid to the NAIA championships.
SOU likely isn't going anywhere unless the ball starts going through the hoop again.
After leading the CCC in 3-point percentage all season, the Raiders went 10-for-71 from outside while falling twice last weekend. They scored 54 points the first night and 53 the next, giving them their two lowest-scoring outputs of the season.
SOU was in a similar situation last season and defeated Concordia in the quarterfinals, 100-88, for its first playoff win in eight years. The Raiders followed that up with an upset at Eastern Oregon before losing to Warner Pacific in the championship.
SOU finished conference play tops in field-goal percentage (47.7) and tied for second in field-goal percentage defense (42.6).
Four Raider starters shot better than 50 percent during the regular season: Eric Thompson (51.0), David Sturner (56.4), Jeff Bush (51.7) and Tim Weber (53.1).
Thompson was second in CCC play in points (20.2), Bush was second (5.9) and Weber sixth (4.2) in assists, and Thompson was third (8.3) and Sturner fifth (8.2) in rebounds.
Northwest Christian is 1-4 in the playoffs since joining the CCC for the 2007-08 season. The Beacons went 2-3 in their last five games, pulling out a 75-72 overtime win at Corban in Saturday's regular season finale.
NCU point guard Javonte Byrd delivered dagger after dagger to SOU's collective chest this season, hitting nine 3-pointers in Ashland and four more in Eugene, including two that sent the game to overtime. Against the Raiders, Byrd is 13-for-19 from 3-point range. He's 9-for-62 against everyone else in the CCC.
The Beacons rely heavily on three players who transferred from NCAA Division I schools to join former Oregon standout Luke Jackson for his first year as head coach. Coleton Baker (16.8 points, 3.1 assists), Spencer Coleman (15.7 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Austin Kuemper (14.4 points, 8.3 rebounds) were prominently featured in conference play.
Depth is an issue, however, as the Beacons also have three of the CCC's top four in minutes played and their bench was outscored 38-10 in matchups with the Raiders.
Thompson did the most damage of any Raider this year against NCU, averaging 24.5 points on 18-for-31 shooting and eight rebounds. Kyle Tedder averaged 16.5 points and made 9 of 18 3-point attempts.
Three of the last five games between the teams have gone to overtime. SOU leads the all-time series, 25-18.