by: Photo courtesy Eastern Oregon University - Elise Hawes celebrates Eastern Oregon winning its fifth consecutive Cascade Conference regular season title after the Mountaineers beat Northwest Christian on Feb. 23.

For two local graduates, this is the biggest week of basketball season.
   Madras grad Elise Hawes and Culver grad Nate Lewis are playing in the NAIA Division II nationals.
   Hawes is a starting senior guard on the Eastern Oregon team which won the Cascade Conference title with a 17-3 record (25-4 overall). Eastern Oregon faces Cardinal Stritch University (26-4) of Milwaukee, Wis., in its opening game Thursday of the six-day tourney at Sioux City, Iowa.
   Lewis is a junior reserve guard for Oregon Tech which finished second in the Cascade Conference at 16-4, one game behind Eastern Oregon. Oregon Tech goes into the NAIA tourney at 26-6. The Owls meet Emery-Riddle University (27-6) of Daytona Beach, Fla., in Thursday's opening game during the six-day tourney at Point Lookout, Mo.
   Hawes started all but one game this season for Eastern Oregon. She averaged 7.1 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. Hawes had season highs of 18 points against Northwest Christian on Jan. 4, and 11 rebounds at Linfield College on Dec. 8.
   Hawes also had 57 assists and 28 steals in 28 games. Her performance helped the Mountaineers win the Cascade Conference title despite losing two senior starters to season-ending injuries.
   Last season, Hawes was a part-time starter, averaging 6.0 points and 4.4 rebounds as Eastern Oregon played in the NAIA tourney last season. The Mountaineers lost to defending champion Hastings (Neb.) College in the first round.
   Lewis averaged 3.5 points in 12.4 minutes as a reserve for Oregon Tech this season. His season high of 16 points came against Southern Oregon on Feb. 12, a game in which Lewis hit four 3-pointers.
   This is a return trip to the NAIA nationals for Lewis. Oregon Tech went 1-1 last season, winning its opener against Northwood (Fla.) 90-72. The Owls then lost to top seed Indiana Wesleyan 95-82 in the second round.
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