North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
BEAVERTON — For South Medford girls basketball coach Tom Cole, Saturday's matchup with Westview in the Nike Northwest Invitational was everything it was supposed to be: full of action and pressure-packed until the final horn at Southridge High.
Even better for Cole, his Panthers again found themselves ahead on the scoreboard at the conclusion of yet another marquee showdown with the Wildcats in a rematch of last year's Class 6A state championship game.
South Medford's Kylie Towry poured in 22 points and fellow senior Yaremi Mejia scored eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter as the Panthers secured a hard-fought 70-67 victory over a Westview team essentially playing in its backyard.
"Westview was very, very good and we feel really fortunate to be able to get out of there with that win," said Cole, whose team trailed throughout until a third-quarter surge supplied a 46-44 edge entering the final eight minutes. "For an early season checkup, this game was important and it's a credit to our kids for how they gutted it up after halftime. "
Westview's Jaime Nared, a standout 6-foot-2 junior, powered home 32 points on 13-for-28 shooting and had five rebounds and two blocks to pace her team. Point guard Delanie Parry added 19 points and eight assists for the Wildcats (2-1), who were coming off a semifinal upset of top-ranked Central Catholic.
"It was just one of those games were every timeout mattered and every possession in the last four minutes was important," said Cole, whose team trailed 29-25 at halftime. "Nared was just a monster on the block. It was the tournament championship and Westview really came to play."
Free throws helped play a pivotal role in the end, with the defending state champion Panthers (3-0) converting 9 of 10 attempts in the final quarter to keep Westview at bay. Towry scored eight points in the final quarter, largely on transition efforts, and Mejia calmly converted a pair of free throws with two seconds to go to give the Panthers a three-point advantage.
Westview set up a last-ditch effort to tie but the long inbounds pass sailed slightly away from Nared, who tried to track it down but couldn't really gain control as the final seconds ticked away.
South Medford's Ashley Bolston scored 10 points and was a key defensive force before foul troubles sent her to the bench in the third quarter. Freshman Jasmine Falls stepped up in Bolston's absence, scoring five of her nine points in the third quarter by going a perfect 3-for-3 from the foul line. Falls converted a three-point play that gave South a two-point advantage and seemed to spark the Panthers' resurgence.
"We had some big sparks from some kids off the bench that took the game to a different emotional level," said Cole. "It was a nip-and-tuck game and then all of a sudden in the fourth quarter we really got to pushing the pace."
Sophomore Andee Ritter added nine points and freshman Julissa Tago had some big moments to go with her six points as the Panthers again played without senior starter Luisa Tago, who injured her knee in the tournament opener against Cleveland High of Washington. The elder Tago is expected to learn more about her knee injury this week.
SOUTH MEDFORD (70) — Towry 22, Mejia 10, Bolston 10, Ritter 9, Falls 9, J. Tago 6, Sleezer 4. Totals: 24-56 17-19 70.
WESTVIEW (67) — Nared 32, Parry 19, Curl 10, Bentz 4, H. Garrity 2, Eby 0, Ashcraft 0. Totals: 25-61 14-16 67.
South Medford 10 15 21 24 — 70
Westview 16 13 15 23 — 67
3-point goals — South Medford 5-14 (Towry 2, Ritter 1, Bolston 1, Mejia 1), Westview 3-10 (Parry 1, Curl 2).