For as bright of a start the Raiders had at Lithia Motors Pavilion on Tuesday night, the end product wasn’t nearly as prosperous.
The No. 18-ranked Southern Oregon men’s basketball team led for the majority of the night, but it was arch-rival and No. 14-ranked Oregon Tech that came with the 77-70 win and hand the Raiders their first-ever defeat at Lithia Motors Pavilion.
In a week that could go a long way in determining whether SOU will be a player for the Cascade Conference title this season, things didn’t start out all that well to begin a huge three-game homestand.
The Owls simply chipped away at the Raiders’ 13-point first-half lead and then flipped the script on SOU come the final seven minutes.
The loss dropped SOU (13-5, 3-4) into a four-team jumble in the CCC standings, with all teams falling three games back in the loss column behind the early pace setters.
Oregon Tech (15-4, 6-1) started its day by moving up 10 spots in the national rankings. The Owls finished it by moving into a tie for first place in the conference standings with defending CCC champion College of Idaho with the win.
The Owls — who trailed 40-34 at halftime — didn’t take their first lead of the night until there was 6:45 to go in the game, with Tyler Hieb and Mitchell Fink proving to be OIT’s 1-2 punch down the stretch.
Matt Van Tssell’s tip-in gave OIT its first lead of the night at 58-57, then Hieb’s 3-pointer in the very next possession quickly put SOU in its first hole the entire game.
In total, Oregon Tech’s 13-2 run proved to be the game changer, with Hieb scoring eight of his 20 points in the game during the spurt.
Fink, the CCC’s co-Player of the Year last season, finished with a team-high 21 points.
Hieb and Fink, the only two Owls in double figures, combined to hit six of OIT’s seven 3-pointers in the game.
Southern Oregon senior guard Tristen Holmes once again led the way offensively for the Raiders, recording a game-high 24 points, 13 of which coming in the second half.
Holmes has now scored at least 20 points in six of Southern Oregon’s last eight games.
Holmes’ reverse layup pulled SOU with three points at 64-61, but that was as close as the Raiders got in the closing moments.
Raiders junior forward Jordan Hunt had 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double in the last six games, while redshirt freshman guard Tez Allen finished with 13 points, one point off his career high.
Led by Van Tassell, OIT’s bench outscored the SOU reserves 26-6 in the game.
SOU 69, OREGON TECH 65: At Ashland, Southern Oregon senior forward Ariel Augustine scored 13 of her 22 points after the third quarter, helping 19th-ranked SOU overcome a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit in a matchup that was as competitive as it was bizarre.
Augustine had SOU’s only field goal of the extra session: a 3-pointer that put them up 63-61. But after a Megan Morris layup tied it on the other end with three minutes left, the Raiders scored their final six points at the free-throw line, going 6-of-8 in the final two minutes.
Up to that point, the Raiders’ had been a dreadful 6-of-22 at the line and the Owls weren’t much better, finishing 4-of-15. Three consecutive missed free throws by the Owls preceded a pair of Augustine makes with 40 seconds left that gave SOU a 66-65 edge. Syd Fryer came up with a steal on OIT’s ensuing possession, was fouled and split a pair at the line, and the Owls then committed their fifth turnover of OT to allow Kenadee Honaker to put the game away with two free throws.
Honaker was responsible for the defensive takeover in OT, where she collected four of her five steals.
The win made the Raiders 11-4 overall an 7-2 in the Cascade Conference, keeping them in second place going into Friday and Saturday’s home games against Northwest Christian and Corban.
The Owls dropped to 10-7 and 4-3.
The overtime game was the Raiders’ first since topping the Owls last season in Klamath Falls, 83-79. They hadn’t played an OT game at home since Feb. 2, 2013, when they beat the Owls 82-80.
Bailey Nelson led OIT with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks while Abby Kreiser had 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
The Owls had the upper hand defensively until the late swing, totaling 16 blocks at the rim. Nohea Waiwaiole accounted for six of those, shaking off a 1-of-10 night from the field. She missed her first nine attempts before coming through with the shot that sent the game to overtime, a jumper in the lane with three seconds to go.
Daranda Hinkey finished with 14 points and Destinee Jones had 12 and eight boards for the Raiders.
SOU was down 52-42 with eight minutes left in regulation before five quick Augustine points. With 2:06 left, her second 3-pointer of the quarter gave SOU its first advantage of the half.