Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
With frosted cupcakes, oversized cookies and a medley of candies being passed around left and right, the South Medford High gymnasium looked more like a bustling goodies bakery than a place of play on Wednesday night.
The sugary sight made perfect sense though ... after all, life has been pretty sweet for the Panther girls basketball team so far.
South Medford's Kylie Towry scored 31 points and Ashley Bolston poured in 18 to lead top-ranked South Medford to 95-51 victory over North Medford at South Medford High.
After a slow-to-rise first quarter, the undefeated Panthers — who are ranked No. 12 nationally by MaxPreps — turned up the heat. The recipe for their run was filled with plenty of important ingredients too: Bolston finished 10-for-10 at the free-throw line and added five steals and four assists, while Towry chipped in four assists.
Yaremi Mejia, playing with an injured ankle, had 16 points, five steals and four rebounds, and Lupita Vargas recorded 11 points and four assists for South (15-0, 4-0 SOH).
Andee Ritter offered up nine points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Panthers, who have scored 90 or more points five times this season and entered Wednesday's Southern Oregon Hybrid game averaging 77 points per game.
McKensey Peters paced North (8-7, 1-3 SOH) with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Mikayla Murphy registered 10 points and seven rebounds and Jocilynn Ellis added six points and six rebounds.
The Black Tornado only trailed by five points after the first quarter. A minute into the second quarter, Sydney Thomas scored on a putback to trim South's lead to 21-18.
"One thing about my team is they always work hard," North head coach Kailey Bostwick said. "And it's hard to walk away from a 95-51 loss, but the girls just need to keep their heads up and know how good South is. And no matter what, I thought our girls played hard and they did the best they could to compete with them."
But the Panthers quickly pulled away, finishing the second period on a 31-10 run.
"I guess the crowd pumped us up," Bolston said. "The student section is getting better."
The second half saw much of the same — tenacious full-court defense, tipped passes, blocked shots, fastbreaks and Panthers finding Panthers for buckets in transition.
"We just started running and picked up our intensity," said Towry, who scored all 10 of her second-quarter points in the paint, either posting up or finishing off fastbreaks. "We were kind of slow coming out, I think it was all the hype from it being the South vs. North game, the rival thing. Then we snapped out of it and started playing our game and running and doing our high-paced game."
South has played without 6-foot-5 senior post Tess Picknell, who injured an ankle against Crater on Jan. 6. Bostwick said one focus entering the game was taking advantage of Picknell's absence by attacking the rim.
South Medford head coach Tom Cole complimented North for its tough play.
"Our kids were kind of like, 'All right, well these kids have come to play' and through that first quarter, it was as competitive a battle as we've had with any team around here in conference," Cole said. "It showed a lot of character to come out and put up a fight."
But South has adapted to life without its Stanford-bound center, whom Cole said could return as early as next week.
"It's different because (Picknell) is one of our big rebounders and gets in there and blocks shots," Towry said. "We do get a lot of transition from that, but without her, we've had to work around it either way. We are boxing out and getting more physical."
NORTH MEDFORD (51) — Ellis 6, Straub 6, Martin 0, Thomas 7, Peters 17, Allen 3, Matagi 2, Murphy 10, Randleman 0. Totals: 19 12-15 51.
SOUTH MEDFORD (95) — Vargas 11, Towry 31, Tago 4, Ritter 9, Bolston 18, Sleezar 2, Sprang 2, Mejia 16, Morris 2. Totals: 36 18-21 95.
North Medford 16 12 6 17 — 51
South Medford 21 31 24 19 — 95
3-point goals — North Medford 1 (Allen 1), South Medford 5 (Vargas 2, Towry 1, Ritter 1, Mejia 1).
JV result — South Medford won.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com