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PORTLAND — Maybe it was simply North Medford's turn in what has been an unusual series this season with cross-town rival South Medford. More likely, though, it was the late-season maturation of the seventh-ranked Black Tornado.
However you want to label it, Thursday's performance by North Medford in the Class 6A state quarterfinals at the Rose Garden was about more than evening a four-game series with No. 8 South Medford.
In another thrilling chapter between the Medford schools, the Black Tornado showed tremendous poise and was more resilient than ever in claiming a 59-48 triumph over the Panthers.
Junior point guard Oshea Bailey was dynamic on the big stage for North, draining 7 of 10 shots for a game-high 17 points, and the Black Tornado won the ever-important battle of the boards with a 35-24 edge over the Panthers to consistently gain second and sometimes third opportunities at the basket.
"We've been turning corners lately and it's great to see on this stage that we were able to continue it," said North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn.
"We just continue to fight," added the sixth-year coach. "It was going their way a little bit early when they got back into it but we just kept fighting. We talked about at halftime that there's 16 minutes left and let's make sure we don't leave anything out there. There is no tired right now so please just come play."
Whatever was necessary, the Black Tornado (23-3) seemed determined to provide it.
"It's a really big win because it's South, it's for the fourth time and it's here in the Rose Garden," Bailey said. "They always come to play their best game against us and we just had to come out hard tonight and show them that we can play."
South Medford (23-4) sandwiched road wins in the first and third meetings this year with North Medford to claim a second straight Southern Oregon Hybrid championship. The Tornado's ability to even the series with a win in the fourth meeting, however, means that North Medford will be playing in the state semifinals for the third time in the last five years, while South Medford will again look to stave off elimination in this morning's consolation round.
"Our goal this year was to get to the state championship and that's what we're doing right now," said 6-foot-3 North post Jordan Browne-Moore, who was named his team's player of the game by tournament officials. "(The Panthers) were just an obstacle to get to that main goal but it's definitely always good to get a win against them."
North will square off at 3:15 p.m. today against top-ranked Jesuit, while South plays at 9 a.m. against 10th-ranked David Douglas, which lost 54-45 to the Crusaders on Thursday.
"We really believe each game is a war and wars are won by winning more battles than they do and we didn't win any battles," said South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy. "That's a toughness thing, it's disappointing. I thought we'd come up and play better because we've been playing awfully well. They brought a toughness we didn't and consequently they're going to move onto the semis and we're going to play at 9 in the morning."
That toughness was evident in the play of Bailey, who committed only one turnover in 30 minutes and was clutch on offense time and again, and in the inside efforts of seniors Browne-Moore and Chris Faust. Browne-Moore finished with 14 points and eight rebounds and Faust had 10 points and nine rebounds to complement Bailey, who has been playing at another level in recent weeks.
"Oshea Bailey's just been amazing since the last South loss (on Feb. 21)," said Plankenhorn. "He really decided that he's going to be maybe our man, and he was tonight. He was just unbelievable."
Bailey netted a spinning jumper to close the first half and cap a 6-0 run by North Medford that gave it a 27-22 lead on South Medford.
The 6-footer then likely hit the shot of the season with time winding down in the third quarter. After Jack Singler scored to pull the Panthers within 40-38, Bailey went to work in the waning seconds. He created a small window against 6-2 South senior Jack Delaney and buried an NBA-range 3-pointer from the top of the key just before time expired.
"I was just feeling it today," said Bailey, who also had three assists and three rebounds. "It was the last seconds and they knew I was trying to drive so I just pulled up."
Added Browne-Moore: "Oshea's just been crazy the second half of the season. It's just such a weapon to have somebody to bring it down the court and be able to get into the key and create on his own. He's such a facilitator."
Already riding the emotion of Bailey's shot to go up 43-38, the Black Tornado got the ball to start the fourth quarter, resulting in a pair of Browne-Moore free throws.
That five-point spree gave the Tornado confidence — not to mention a seven-point advantage — and North was able to cut down the possessions in the final quarter with a delay tactic that required much focus.
The Panthers were forced to foul four times to finally send North Medford to the foul line, but the Black Tornado responded by going 9-for-12 from the charity stripe over the final 21/2 minutes. One miss by Browne-Moore on the front end of a one-and-one was negated by a lane violation by Singler, and the North senior took advantage of the second chance with a conversion to put his team up 51-45 with two minutes to go.
Singler answered with a 3-pointer seconds later to pull the Panthers within three points, but Bailey responded with a pair of free throws and Delaney missed a leaner on the other end.
A fitting example of how the game played out for both teams came with 1:31 to go with Faust on the foul line, Browne-Moore on the block and the rest of North's team at midcourt. Faust missed both his free throws but Browne-Moore outhustled four Panthers to rebound the final miss and reclaim possession for his team.
The Tornado was then able to run 30 more seconds off the clock before senior Trey Garfas, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds, was fouled and then made two foul shots to put his team up 55-48.
"That was amazing," said Plankenhorn of Browne-Moore's effort. "He just fights for every single loose ball. He tipped it to himself and then was smart enough to get it out and then we made free throws from there."
The Black Tornado closed the final 1:50 of the game on an 8-0 run by forcing South into four contested shots, three of which came well behind the arc.
"They're a good team and they're very well-coached," Browne-Moore said of the Panthers. "We just had to make sure that we were mentally tough and make sure we were stable throughout the second half, where none of their highs were any of our lows."
Delaney, who was named South's player of the game, and fellow senior Matt Retzlaff each finished with 15 points to lead the Panthers. Retzlaff added four assists and Singler totaled eight points, five rebounds and five assists.
SOUTH MEDFORD (48) — Delaney 6-13 2-4 15, Retzlaff 6-13 1-2 15, Singler 3-8 1-2 8, Mondry 3-7 2-2 8, Garcia 1-3 0-0 2, Curtius 0-0 0-0 0, McCoy 0-0 0-0 0, Sarsona 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 19-45 6-10 48.
NORTH MEDFORD (59) — Bailey 7-10 2-2 17, J. Browne-Moore 5-13 4-6 14, Garfas 2-7 4-4 10, Faust 4-8 2-4 10, Mautz 1-5 1-2 4, Winans 1-3 0-0 2, Parker 1-1 0-1 2, Whitaker 0-0 0-0 0, Gray 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 21-48 13-19 59.
South Medford 9 13 16 10 — 48
North Medford 14 13 16 16 — 59
3-point goals — South Medford 4-14 (Retzlaff 2-5, Singler 1-4, Delaney 1-3, Sarsona 0-1, Mondry 0-1), North Medford 4-11 (Garfas 2-3, Mautz 1-4, Bailey 1-2, Winans 0-2). Fouled out — Singler. Rebounds — South Medford 24 (Garcia 7), North Medford 35 (Faust 9). Assists — South Medford 16 (Singler 5), North Medford 6 (Bailey 3). Total fouls — South Medford 15, North Medford 13. A — 3,563
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry