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Preview: Embry-Riddle men’s hoops makes first-ever trip to Cal Pac tourney
Men's College Basketball

Embry Riddle's Logan Skurdal starts to drive as the Eagles take on the Simpson University Redhawks Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019 in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Embry Riddle's Logan Skurdal starts to drive as the Eagles take on the Simpson University Redhawks Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019 in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

LANCASTER, Calif. — It has been kind of a long wait for Embry-Riddle men’s basketball.

For the first time in its four-year history, since their inaugural 2015-16 season, the Eagles have clinched a berth into the Cal Pac Conference Tournament.

The third-seeded Eagles, who own a 15-13 record and finished with an 8-6 mark in conference, will face second-seeded Simpson (17-10, 9-5 Cal Pac) in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at the University of Antelope Valley’s Pioneer Event Center in Lancaster, California.

“It’s definitely exciting, especially looking at our seniors, who have been involved in a four-year process of getting to this point,” ERAU coach Eric Fundalewicz said Feb. 22 from California about his Eagles reaching the conference tourney. “To achieve this is a huge testament to them and their trust. It’s a good culmination for them.”

Top-seeded Antelope Valley (14-12, 12-2), which has clinched its second straight regular-season conference crown, battles No. 4 Benedictine-Mesa (18-11, 7-7) in the Cal Pac tourney’s other semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

The semifinal winners will meet in the conference championship game at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, at Pioneer Event Center. Whichever team captures the Cal Pac title will automatically qualify for the NAIA Division II National Championship Tournament at the Sanford Pentagon March 6-12 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

This season, Embry-Riddle split its two-game league series with Simpson (California), losing 82-76 Jan. 5 on the road before beating the Red Hawks, 76-72, Jan. 31 at the ERAU Activity Center.

“The third game against the same opponent is always tough,” Fundalewicz said. “It comes down to who wants it more.”

The Eagles clinched the Cal Pac’s No. 3 seed by winning six of their final 10 games, including their last two in Prescott. Embry-Riddle ended the season with a 9-2 record at home and a 4-8 mark on the road.

“The last week-and-a-half we have treated as a playoff,” Fundalewicz said. “Now we’re finetuning our approach.”

CAL PAC TIDBITS

Embry-Riddle senior guard Logan Skurdal of Meridian, Idaho, became the second Eagle in program history to reach the 1,000-point plateau in ERAU’s Feb. 14 win over Cal Maritime. His 1,000th point came on an assist from his brother, Eagles senior guard Ryan Skurdal. Logan joined Embry-Riddle junior guard Nick Johnson of Anthem, who reached 1,000 points in January, in the program’s record books. “Logan has been here from Day 1, and he’s been so dedicated to our basketball family,” Fundalewicz said. “He’s one of the most respected guys on the team.” … Simpson’s No. 2 seed in the Cal Pac tournament is the Red Hawks’ best since 2015. … Benedictine-Mesa qualified for the Cal Pac tourney by winning four in a row and five of its last six games, including a 76-72 win over Cal Maritime in its Feb. 16 finale. Benedictine upset Antelope Valley Feb. 7 in California, allowing the Redhawks to break the tie with the league’s two other 7-7 teams (UC Merced and Cal Maritime).

UP NEXT

If Embry-Riddle beats Simpson, it advances to the Cal Pac Conference Tournament Championship game at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday against the winner of the Antelope Valley vs. Benedictine-Mesa semifinal at Pioneer Event Center.

The Cal Pac Conference contributed information to this story.

Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at dcook@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.

2019 Cal Pac Conference Men’s Basketball Championship

Pioneer Event Center

University of Antelope Valley, Lancaster, Calif.

All times on Arizona time

Sunday, Feb. 24

Semifinals

Tuesday, Feb. 26

Championship

Semifinal winners, 8:30 p.m.

March 6-12

NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

• Cal Pac Conference Tournament winner qualifies for the 32-team tournament

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