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Area teams challenge top-rated Oregon Tech

Maybe the third time will be the charm for Cascade College.

The Thunderbirds have traveled to Klamath Falls twice and were drilled by Oregon Tech both times. Tonight at 8, the T-Birds get another chance against the Owls, the top-ranked NAIA Division II men's basketball team. This time, the game will take place in Cascade's gym, known as 'The Thunderdome.'

And, on Saturday, Warner Pacific gets to take its shot at visiting Oregon Tech.

'They're very fundamental, with great chemistry,' Cascade coach Craig Moody says. 'You can't make a lot of mistakes against them.'

Western Baptist handed Oregon Tech (22-1 overall, 10-1 Cascade Conference) its first loss Tuesday, 105-96.

Oregon Tech has beaten Cascade, No. 18 in the latest NAIA Division II poll, 77-65 and 87-71.

The Thunderbirds (17-6, 6-4) lead the conference in defense (giving up 68.6 points per game) and rebounding margin (with a whopping 10 more boards per game than their opponents).

'We rotate three posts through,' Moody says, referring to Matt Evers, Randy Kelly and Alfred Delancy, who average seven rebounds apiece. 'We don't have Will Walker back, and Zach McCune took the year off, so we don't have the perimeter game we've had in the past. People like to pack it in on us.'

Oregon Tech, meanwhile, leads the conference in offense (86.6). Point guard Todd Matthews, an Australian, is the league leader in assists (8.9) and steals (3.6). Post Alassane Bakayoko averages 14.5 points, and Kevin Baker adds 14.1.

Cascade, Concordia (13-7, 6-4) and Warner Pacific (16-8, 5-5) are all in the hunt to make the Cascade Conference playoffs.

The league gets two invitations to the NAIA championships, plus a possible at-large entry.

Concordia will play host to Oregon Tech on Feb. 21.