It wasn't exactly a huge step but Tuesday's showing by the South Medford boys basketball team against Bend was a move forward in a few key areas that will hopefully lead to greater things down the road for the young Panthers.
Senior post Jesse Mondry tallied 17 points to lead nine different South Medford scorers and the Panthers showed a much-needed determination on the boards to clip the Lava Bears 61-52 at South Medford High.
Paced by a career-best 14 rebounds from junior Tristian Lallo, South Medford outrebounded Bend 36-20 and used many of those second- and third-chances to overcome a 22-for-57 effort from the field (39 percent).
"We battled and we surely competed but we should be better shooters than that," said South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy. "Tristian Lallo, that's by far the best basketball game he's played. That was really a bright spot for us and good to see. If we can get Tristian Lallo to continue to play like that then that truly helps us."
Lallo scored all four of his points in the second half but his rebounding effort on each side of the floor proved contagious as the Panthers (2-1) clawed their way past the Bears (1-2) in the nonconference affair. Mondry pulled down 10 rebounds to help the cause and South got three apiece from Adrian Garcia, Mark Winans and Ben Orndoff.
Garcia (nine points, four assists) and Winans (nine points, three assists, three steals, two blocks) each supplied a hustling effort throughout, while Matt Toreson had eight points, two assists and one of five blocks by the Panthers.
Bend opened a 6-2 lead but an inside basket and four quick points by Winans gave the Panthers the lead for good three minutes into the contest. After a Garcia basket, South had a five-shot possession that was capped by a Bryson Carpenter 3-pointer to highlight the effort — both in retrieving the ball and missing open looks.
"It was our inability to box out that first quarter," said Bend head coach Don Hayes of the determining factor. "They had multiple opportunities offensively and you can't do that."
The Panthers led 18-11 through one quarter and Mondry's 3-pointer to open the second quarter pushed South into a comfortable cushion. The 6-foot-5 standout was 5-for-7 from the field in the first half to spark the Panthers to a 38-28 lead by halftime and finished 7-for-13 overall.
"To be honest these past two games haven't been what exactly I've expected of myself," said Mondry, "so I just really focused on coming out intense tonight and making sure I hit the shots that I know I can make and getting to spots that I know I can make shots."
While the Panthers were a steady 15-for-32 from the field in the first half, they dipped to 7-for-25 in the second half (0-for-6 beyond the arc).
Saving the day for South Medford was a 9-for-11 effort from the foul line in the fourth quarter and a more effective showing against Bend's leading scorer Connor Scott, who had 14 of his team-high 16 points in the first half.
"We took their best player in the second half and limited him to two points, which was a real concern for us in the first half," said Murphy.
Neither team was able to create much movement despite ample opportunities in a rough third quarter. The Lava Bears used a nice driving basket by Wyatt Beaumarchais to trim their deficit to 46-38 with three minutes to go in the third but each team went ice cold from there. The next points came five minutes later on a pair of free throws by Garcia.
"It was 46-38 forever and had we been able to put a couple balls in the hole — we missed some easy ones — it might have been a different ending," said Hayes, whose team was 20-for-45 overall.
"We were both missing for a long time and then we started hitting and trading baskets so nobody could ever get a solid run or solid stops," added the Bend coach. "But his kids play hard and I thought our kids played hard so it was a good preseason basketball game."
Beaumarchais scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter but South's lead never dipped below nine points to close out its final tune-up for this week's Red Bluff Holiday Classic.
"You've got to keep it in perspective because they're young and they're inexperienced," added Murphy. "We've just got to get better. Tonight was a step, although not always forward, but we'll get a real big test this weekend. They've definitely improved the tournament field."
BEND (52) — Scott 16, Beaumarchais 12, Connell 8, Johnson 7, Robinson 5, Ricker 2, Wetzell 2, Spitler 0, Parsons 0, Holliday 0. Totals: 20-45 8-12 52.
SOUTH MEDFORD (61) — Mondry 17, Garcia 9, Winans 9, Toreson 8, Carpenter 6, Lallo 4, Massey 4, Orndoff 2, Keepes 2, Robertson 0. Totals: 22-57 12-15 61.
Bend 11 17 10 14 — 52
South Medford 18 20 8 15 — 61
3-point goals — Bend 4-9 (Connell 2, Robinson 1, Beaumarchais 1), South Medford 5-17 (Carpenter 2, Winans 1, Mondry 1, Toreson 1). Fouled out — Connell.
JV score — South Medford 56, Bend 51.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry