North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
Yet another fantastic finish in the Mail Tribune All-Star Basketball Classic didn't appear to be in the cards for the fourth annual event, but a late rally by the Rogues left the outcome hanging in the balance to the final seconds in front of a packed house Saturday night at Kids Unlimited.
Decked out in their blue uniforms, the Siskiyou squad built a 15-point lead in the third quarter before the yellow-clad Rogues came storming back to take their first lead of the game on a 3-pointer by Ashland's Billy Hansen with 21/2 minutes to play.
That effort set up a tense back-and-forth battle that ultimately was settled by a clutch 3-pointer from Eagle Point's Logan Winter and some timely Siskiyou free throws in an 86-81 nail-biter on Olsrud Court.
"It was good to get back in the game," said Hansen, who scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter. "It got the fans back into the game and it was exciting right to the end. I wish we could've gotten it, but at least it was exciting."
"Logan hit a clutch shot to win it," he added. "I thought we had it but it didn't work out for us."
Hansen scored on a jumper behind a screen from North Valley's Jake Herklotz to give the Rogues a 79-77 lead with 34 seconds to go. Taylor Griggs of Grants Pass pushed the ball up the court and attempted a pull-up jumper that was quickly swatted back by South Medford's Mike Brassel. In the right place at the right time, Winter scooped up the loose ball and calmly stroked in his fourth 3-pointer of the game for an 80-79 lead with 24 seconds remaining.
"It was kinda bang-bang," said Winter. "I was trailing behind Taylor and I saw him get blocked. I picked it up and no one was there and it was just like, 'You know what, I'm letting it fly,' and it went in, so that was pretty nice."
Griggs was able to force a turnover by Brassel on the ensuing possession and, after a timeout, Siskiyous teammate Tyler Dungannon of Phoenix was fouled and sent to the foul line for a one-and-one opportunity with 15.5 seconds to play. Still basking in the glow of helping lead the Pirates to the Class 4A state championship a week ago, Dungannon admitted he was a little taken aback by the late-game tension in the all-star high school affair.
"I was a little nervous," he said with a laugh. "The state championship really went through my mind, no lie. I was like, 'This is nothing compared to the state championship,' but it was real, it was real."
What had been a fun free-for-all during the opening three quarters turned tense, but that didn't deter the Phoenix junior as he calmly drained two free throws to give his team an 82-79 lead with 13.1 seconds left.
"I was just like, 'I've got to get these for my team,'" said Dungannon. "I already love these guys. It was great playing with them. The school season is work, this was fun. I enjoyed this, it was great."
The Rogues' attempt at a potential game-tying 3-pointer went awry as time ran out down on Hansen's inbounds effort. He sent a lob into the frontcourt that was intercepted by North Medford defender Jordan Browne-Moore. Griggs was soon fouled and connected on a pair of clutch free throws of his own.
Brassel answered in a heartbeat with a coast-to-coast layup that kept the outcome in doubt at 84-81 with 5.5 seconds to go, but Griggs followed moments later with two more foul shots for the final outcome.
"Taylor hit some clutch free throws and Mike still got to the rim in about two seconds to cut it back to three again," Winter said of the tight finish. "It was tough sledding to the very end."
In his third go-round at the MT Classic, Winter finished with a team-best 18 points to go with eight rebounds and three assists to earn the most valuable player trophy.
"It's a team honor," said the 6-foot-5 EP senior. "I couldn't have done it without my teammates. All the good passes and stuff, I was just able to knock some shots down."
"It's been fun to play with and against all the guys from around this area for three years now," he added, "and it's for a good cause, too."
All proceeds from Saturday's boys and girls all-star games benefit Kids Unlimited.
South Medford's Tevyn Mercer gave Winter the biggest run for the MVP trophy, doing everything but win the game. The Panther senior netted 19 points for the Rogues, including a pair of rim-shaking dunks, and also finished with eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and one blocked shot.
Mercer's play was pivotal as his team chipped away at its deficit with more focused play in the final two quarters.
"We had to change our shot selection a little bit and stop shooting those long shots," noted Mercer, whose team was 4-for-19 from 3-point range. "We also started hitting our free throws better in that second half and we noticed the other team wasn't really running the floor well so we really tried to push the ball and get it out ahead of them."
The change allowed for an electric atmosphere down the stretch, but in the end the Siskiyous simply wouldn't be denied.
Illinois Valley's Roger Hults was consistent throughout, scoring 13 points to go with three rebounds, while Griggs finished with 10 points, five assists and four rebounds and Eagle Point's Tyrone Holmes added 12 points and four rebounds. All Siskiyous players reached the scorebook, with Browne-Moore tallying a team-high 10 rebounds and Dungannon showing nice all-around play with seven points and six rebounds.
For the Rogue team, Hansen and Brassel each finished with 13 points, with Brassel adding four assists and Crater's Cody Dismukes finishing with 11 points, three rebounds and two blocks. Herklotz added eight points, six rebounds and three assists and Havird had seven points, two rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
"It was really kind of intimidating," said Rogue Valley Adventist freshman Caleb Allen, the game's youngest player. "Luckily our team was really nice and they helped me out."
"It was so weird because you could see everybody you read about in the newspaper out there and now to actually be on the same team ... I liked it a lot," added Allen. "But next year will be a lot better."
And why is that?
"Because I'm going to be dunking all over this place, it's going to be fun," he added with a broad smile.
ROGUES (81) — Tevyn Mercer 19, Billy Hansen 13, Mike Brassel 13, Cody Dismukes 11, Jake Herklotz 8, Josh Havird 7, Braden Monnot 6, Daniel Varela 3, Caleb Allen 1, Noah Conway 0. Totals: 32-71 13-21 81.
SISKIYOUS (86) — Logan Winter 18, Roger Hults 13, Tyrone Holmes 12, Taylor Griggs 10, Eric Morse 8, Tyler Dungannon 7, Moe Gower 6, Jared Knox 4, Jesse Bethke 4, Jordan Browne-Moore 4. Totals: 31-78 13-19 86.
Rogues 17 18 21 25 — 81
Siskiyous 21 23 20 22 — 86
3-point goals — Rogues 4-19 (Hansen 2, Havird 1, Varela 1), Siskiyous 11-30 (Winter 4, Morse 2, Gower 2, Griggs 1, Dungannon 1, Browne-Moore 1).
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry