Raiders to host men's two-day tournament

A host of local talent will invade McNeal Pavilion this weekend for the annual Flagship Inn Classic hosted by the Southern Oregon University men's basketball team.

In addition to the Raiders, Oregon Tech, led by South Medford grad Ryan Fiegi, Lewis-Clark State College of Lewiston, Idaho, and Willamette University of Salem will be in attendance. The Bearcats local flavor includes 6-foot-2 senior guard Mike Smith, a former Phoenix High standout and 6-foot-3 junior guard Corey Costantino of Ashland.

"The Classic features three pretty good teams and one (SOU) that is trying to be good," SOU coach Brian McDermott said.

Oregon Tech meets Lewis-Clark State College at 5:30 p.m. on Friday followed by SOU and Willamette at 7:30 p.m. All the action takes place at McNeal Pavilion. Tickets for the event are available at the door both nights.

Willamette (1-1) makes its second trip to the Flagship Classic and is led by 6-foot-5 junior post Kyler McClary, who averages 17.5 points per game followed by Smith, the ex-Pirate, at 16 points per game. The Bearcats, after a 72-63 win over College of Idaho to start the season, were nearly 2-0 but blew a 16-point first-half lead in a 95-88 loss to Eastern Oregon.

"Our first opponent is Willamette, and Gordie James probably has his best team in five or six years," McDermott said. "They are big, long, can score and are very well coached."

The road only gets tougher on Saturday as the Raiders take on Lewis-Clark State College, which beat SOU 88-44 to open the season.

The Warriors, ranked tied for 13th in the preseason NAIA Div. I poll, won their first five games of the season before losing to Walla Walla University 69-67 last week. Mike Gordy paces the offense at 19.7 points per game and Dorian Watson averages 11 points per game. The Warriors (5-1) average 90.5 points per game and have beaten opponents by an average of 30 points per game.

"They walloped us pretty good," McDermott said. "They are picked to win the Frontier Conference and are one of the top NAIA Division I teams in the country."

SOU will not play Oregon Tech (6-1) in the tournament as the two teams met on Nov. 13 in Ashland. That was an 85-55 victory for the Div. II No. 11 Owls, which also boast two other players, sophomore forwards Brent Johnson and Myles Daley, from South Medford.

OIT, which averages 96.1 points per game, is led in scoring by junior post Christian Cavanaugh at 18.1 points per game but Fiegi, a second-team NAIA All-American last season, is close behind at 17 points per game.

SOU (4-3) is coming off a 77-56 loss at Humboldt State in which the Raiders committed 23 turnovers.

"We're improving every day and that's a good sign as we get closer to league play," McDermott said. "This weekend's games will tell me a lot where we are."

He added: "We haven't been happy with our execution particularly on the offensive end. We're hoping this weekend gets us this last piece and we can show some progress in execution. The last 10 days we have shown progress on defense, so I think we're heading in the right direction. Offensively we still haven't seen the whole deal but this weekend should tell us lot and solidify our rotation of players."

The Raiders' senior guard Matt Cowell leads the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game and junior post Ryan Pool is averaging 11.4 points per game.

Along with Cowell of Grants Pass, other local players for the Raiders include Josh McDermott of Ashland, Kory Mahr and Jason Nunnemaker also of Grants Pass and Trenton Fraser of Bandon.

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