Southern Oregon has been home to many prominent wrestling duals over the years, mostly thanks to the history of programs like Crater, Eagle Point...
The challenge wasn't exactly there but the effort was and, on a night like Friday, North Medford's girls basketball team and head coach Tim Karrick will take that and gladly move forward.
Facing a young Sprague team that was coming off a four-win season one year ago — three of those coming at North Salem's expense — the Black Tornado put the game out of reach in a matter of minutes en route to a 65-18 victory at North Medford High.
With tight man-to-man defense and a willingness to share the basketball, North Medford converted nine of its first 10 shots and limited Sprague to only two shot attempts in that span for an 18-0 lead just 31/2 minutes into the game.
Things didn't get much better after that for the clearly overmatched Olympians, who trailed 33-6 through one quarter of play and 53-14 by halftime.
"They did a great job running the floor," Sprague head coach Phil Rodin said of the Tornado. "They release kids and get kids down the floor and they see down the floor, and that's tough to defend. They run the ball really well and we just couldn't keep up."
Black Tornado senior McKensey Peters scored 12 of her game-high 17 points in the first quarter to pace a balanced attack that saw all 10 players in uniform for North score at least one basket.
"I think everyone had their fair share of baskets and moments in the game and I'm really glad that everyone got a chance to shine this game," said the 5-foot-11 standout.
"We're trying to get the ball up the floor a lot more," added Peters, "and even with playing this team it helped us a lot. We didn't play down to their level, I think we actually played up to our level and worked on things that we need to work on when it comes time to play a team like Crater or Roseburg. It was a good start and a good game."
The Black Tornado was without two regulars in Kendell Erb (concussion) and Maryssa Becker (illness) but didn't miss a beat. Sophomore Kathleen Martin tallied eight points while North got six points apiece from Joci Ellis, Sierra Randleman, Sydney Thomas, Katie Williamson and Sarah Koistinen.
"It was just a solid effort all around and very unselfish play," said Black Tornado head coach Tim Karrick, who moved to 2-0 in his return to the bench after a four-year hiatus.
Ellis and Thomas were the early instigators in repeatedly forcing the Olympians (0-1) into turnovers, and also took the lead in creating scoring chances for their teammates. Ellis finished with eight assists, three steals and two rebounds without a turnover, while Thomas doled out four assists to go with three steals and one blocked shot in an effort-driven performance by both.
North forced two five-second violations and five turnovers in the first 21/2 minutes, as well as a timeout 30 seconds into the game when Sprague's Tazesha Wilson was backed into a corner deep on her own end by the Tornado's full-court pressure.
"Obviously it was nice to see them come out and play to our potential and do the things right and turn them over," said Karrick. "We got in foul trouble last game (Wednesday against Henley) and this game we talked a lot about playing sound defense and not hacking and reaching. Getting those five-second calls and those steals without fouling and having those translate into points was big. That kind of got us on a roll and once we started going there really was no stopping them."
With Black Tornado players working hard on the defensive end, Sprague was limited to only six shot attempts in the first quarter — two on the same possession — and nine field goals for the game. The Olympians shot only 27 percent from the field (9-for-33) and didn't score in the second half until there was 3:40 to play in the fourth quarter.
North Medford did its best to slow the pace down in the second half, patiently working the ball around the floor through each offensive possession. Ellis' rebound basket marked the first score 51/2 minutes into a third quarter that featured only nine possessions by North and eight by Sprague.
Hannah Anderson's jumper with four minutes to play put the Tornado up 61-14 and ensured that every player scored in the runaway win.
Randleman also pulled down four rebounds to go with a pair of assists, while Williamson and Koistinen joined Bailey O'Connor in grabbing three boards. O'Connor also came off the bench to notch three assists and join Haley Hogue with two steals.
"I see this year being one of our best years and possibly one of my best seasons now that we've got a few more girls back out here," said Peters. "The coaching staff is amazing and I feel like we've definitely improved so I'm actually really excited about this season."
Silvy Kerzman came off the bench to score eight points for Sprague, which, to its credit, played hard throughout despite the lopsided score.
SPRAGUE (18) — Kerzman 8, Macaitis-Smith 4, Vlahandreas 2, Daniels 2, Wilson 2, Brown 0, Bowers 0, Murrell 0, Poteet 0, Puckett 0. Totals: 9-33 0-2 18.
NORTH MEDFORD (65) — Peters 17, Martin 8, Ellis 6, Randleman 6, Thomas 6, Williamson 6, Koistinen 6, O'Connor 4, Hogue 4, Anderson 2. Totals: 29-53 6-14 65.
Sprague 6 8 0 4 — 18
North Medford 33 20 4 8 — 65
3-point goals — Sprague 0-3, North Medford 1-3 (Williamson 1).
JV score — North Medford 50, Sprague 15.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry