ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon women's basketball team is home for the last time in the regular season this weekend and its postseason outlook is likely to be much clearer by the time it's over.
The second-place Raiders (22-2 overall, 14-2 Cascade Conference) will play sixth-place Corban (12-12, 8-9) on Saturday and third-place Northwest Christian (19-3, 12-3), ranked No. 14 in the country, on Sunday at Mountain Avenue Gym. Tipoffs are scheduled at 4 p.m., and two wins would give SOU season sweeps of both teams, a fourth résumé-boosting top-25 victory and no worse than the No. 2 seed in the upcoming CCC tournament.
The Raiders fell one spot to No. 10 in this week's NAIA Division II coaches' poll, which will be the last one released before the conference tournament. If they can avoid dropping in the Feb. 20 poll, they'll be a top-10 team going into the postseason for the fourth year in a row. First-place Eastern Oregon (23-2, 16-0) — which is riding a 17-game winning streak and will host SOU on Feb. 17 — moved up one spot to No. 6, Northwest Christian ascended two spots to No. 14 and Oregon Tech is receiving votes at No. 30 overall. Southeastern (Fla.), the only unbeaten team left in the country, took the No. 1 position for the first time this season from Concordia (Neb.).
After the Raiders wrap the regular season next week at College of Idaho and current conference leaders Eastern Oregon, they'll be in the eight-team CCC tournament field for the 12th year in a row. They've already clinched a top-four seed, meaning they'll host a quarterfinal game at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 20. If they host the semifinal round on Feb. 23, that game would also tip off at 8:30 p.m. The championship game is scheduled for Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Root Sports Northwest.
SOU's 13-game winning streak ended last Wednesday in a 78-70 loss to Oregon Tech on a cold-shooting night. The Raiders took a 10-point lead in the first quarter, but hit just 27 percent of their attempts in the second, third and fourth combined. They rebounded with two wins over the weekend at last-place Walla Walla, 75-46 and 83-28, and improved to 12-0 on the road. SOU hit 24 3-pointers on the trip and, due to enormous disparities in offensive rebounds and turnovers, threw up 163 total shots compared to the Wolves' 78. WWU's 28 points in the second matchup were the fewest scored against the Raiders since Pacific Union mustered 25 in the third game of 2012-13.
• The Raiders enter the weekend ranked first in the NAIA in offensive rebounds per game (19.5); Destinee Jones (2.5) and Remi Mejia (2.3) both rank top-10 in the CCC individually. They also rank second nationally in steals per game (16.1); Mejia (3.0) is second, Kenadee Honaker (2.2) fourth, Toria Bradford (2.2) fifth and Casey Williams (1.6) 14th in the conference. It's the third year in a row SOU has been among the top-five nationally in steals.
• Ariel Augustine has scored in double figures 11 times in SOU's last 13 games to up her average to 12.3 points in conference games, the 14th-highest in the circuit.
• Bradford is enjoying her most prolific scoring season at 11.9 points per game. But she's also 11 assists away from becoming the 10th Raider to ever record 300 in a career, and with 223 steals she needs 14 more to rank top-five in team history.
• Mejia is up to 72 made 3-pointers, the fifth-most in SOU single-season history. Her 16.8 points per game rank second in the CCC.
• SOU's bench is averaging 28.9 points per game this season and 38.7 over the team's last six games. True freshman have accounted for over 60 percent of the bench's total minutes played, but sophomore Daranda Hinkey has led the unit with seven points and 2.7 assists per game.
• SOU's four seniors — Nitteayah Barfield, Bradford, Mejia and Williams — will be recognized following Saturday's game.