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North Medford struggled to find a rhythm against Redmond during Thursday's opening game of the 23rd annual Abby's Holiday Classic but did just enough to retain hopes of defending its title.
Julian Gray held the fort down for the Black Tornado to set up a shot at some late-game dramatics, with North Medford using a go-ahead 3-pointer by Oshea Bailey and ensuing defensive stand to fend off the visiting Panthers, 51-50, at North Medford High.
"We didn't execute very well at all," said North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn. "Part of that was because of Redmond, but we just got out of our game and guys weren't going to the spots they normally go to. But like I told the kids, we may have not executed anything all night but we executed one play at the end and that was enough to get the win, I guess."
Tournament play resumes today at South Medford High, with North Medford taking on South Eugene at 6 p.m. Also, South Umpqua faces North Salem at 4:15 p.m. and South Medford takes on Redmond at 7:45.
Redmond (5-3) led almost the entire first half but needed a fourth-quarter surge to erase an eight-point deficit with 21/2 minutes to play. The Panthers used a three-point play by Trevor Genz to go up 50-47 with 93 seconds to go, but a free throw by Hunter Klug cut into that lead and then Gray forced a turnover to give the ball back to North Medford with 36.2 seconds left.
After a timeout, the Black Tornado (6-1) executed a designed play to perfection as Gray got the ball on the wing and found Bailey open at the top of the key behind a screen from Brandon DeBerry. The senior point guard didn't hesitate and found nothing but the bottom of the net for a 3-pointer with 20 seconds to go.
"I don't really usually run the (two-guard spot) but I guess Plank felt that I needed to be right there and take the shot and I just had confidence and put it in there," said Bailey, who scored nine of his 12 points in the second half.
North Medford's initial defense thwarted a quick answer by Redmond, which called timeout with 8.5 seconds left to set up its own final shot attempt. The Panthers went to leading scorer Matt Dahlen, who drove right to the baseline and pulled up for a shot over Gray that bounced off the back iron and into the arms of North's Tristen Holmes. A jump ball created an inbounds scenario with eight-tenths of a second to play but Bailey got open and sealed the victory with one touch of the ball.
Dahlen, a 6-foot-6 senior, finished with 18 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks, and was at the heart of Redmond's fourth-quarter rally.
"We got a great look from one of our better players and that's about all you can ask for," said Redmond head coach Jon Corbett, whose team twice led by as much as nine points in the first half. "It's unfortunate it had to come down to a last-second shot like that. They played great defense tonight and hit a shot there toward the end, and it was our turn to try to do that and we just couldn't make it happen."
While Bailey's final shot was the biggest of the game, it was Gray who supplied the energy and steady approach to give his team a chance. The 6-1 junior guard finished with 15 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and one blocked shot to help offset an otherwise off night from North's starting lineup.
"There's no question he was the best player on the floor for us," said Plankenhorn. "That's not a different thing because he always is one of our top players, but today he was definitely our best player. He's a stat stuffer and one of the top guys in every category on our team, and then he goes and guards the best guy on the other team."
For Gray, it was just about doing whatever he could to help his team win.
"With me scoring, if it's something I have to do, I'll do it," he said. "If I need to get rebounds or assists, then I'll try to do that. In this case, I kinda did it all tonight."
Gray did everything but put his team over the top in the end, but that was fine by him.
"We drew it up and I just knew Oshea was one of those guys that's going to make it," he said. "He came out just confident as ever and teed it up and luckily it went in, and then we were able to play good defense on the other end."
Holmes finished with seven points and three steals for the Tornado, which got a good boost off the bench from DeBerry (six points, four rebounds), Klug (five points, five rebounds), Landon Sherbourne (three points) and Christian Reyes (two points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals).
Genz had 14 points and five rebounds for Redmond, while Mason Rodby managed nine points, six rebounds and three blocks for a Panthers team that eluded North with their backdoor cuts to the basket.
"The spacing of the floor and the back-cutting and dribble-driving, it's a chore to guard and we weren't really ready for that and I think it knocked us on our heels," Plankenhorn said of Thursday's task.
A 31-18 advantage over the second and third quarters provided the difference for the Black Tornado, along with Bailey's timely 3-pointer.
REDMOND (50) — Dahlen 18, Genz 14, Rodby 9, Thomas 4, Bordges 2, Powell 2, Cravens 1, Davies 0. Totals: 20-45 7-13 50.
NORTH MEDFORD (51) — Gray 15, Bailey 12, Holmes 7, DeBerry 6, Klug 5, Sherbourne 3, Reyes 2, Knox 1, Browne-Moore 0. Totals: 19-53 10-16 51.
Redmond 16 11 7 16 — 50
North Medford 9 15 16 11 — 51
3-point goals — Redmond 3-11 (Genz 1, Rodby 1, Dahlen 1), North Medford 3-7 (Gray 1, Holmes 1, Bailey 1). Technical fouls — Reyes.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry