Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
South Medford admittedly hasn't put it all together yet for a full 32-minute boys basketball game, but the local boys came pretty close Friday night under a unique spotlight against Redmond on Day 2 of the Abby's Holiday Classic.
Having already watched North Medford secure a spot in tonight's championship final of the 23rd annual tournament, South Medford went about its business with a mid-game scoring barrage that left the visiting Panthers in their wake en route to a 61-39 win at South Medford High.
South Medford outscored Redmond 17-4 in the second quarter to take a 27-18 lead into intermission, then kept the throttle on in a 20-12 third quarter to separate itself in what turned into a rout thanks to solid defense and perimeter shooting.
"We talked about taking it up a notch in the second quarter and to the kids' credit, they surely did," said South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy. "Then for us the next big test came in the second half and can we not regress like we did (Thursday night against North Salem), and they did well there, too."
In Friday's other tournament games, North Medford topped South Eugene 70-62 and North Salem won 67-54 over South Umpqua.
Tonight's championship game will begin at 6 and feature an all-Medford finale for the third time since 2003 and first since South Medford edged North Medford, 63-56, in 2010. Only three times in tourney history has there been a title game void of one of the Medford teams.
Today's other matchups include a pair of teams that went 1-1 in the opening two days in South Eugene and North Salem at 4:15 p.m. for a true third-place tilt, while Redmond will take on Del Norte at 2:30 p.m.
Neither Medford team likely wanted this as a championship scenario considering they'll have to face one another three more times in the Southern Oregon Hybrid race, but neither would want to trade places with anyone else heading into today's final.
"I think you have to look at it from the standpoint that (North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn's) done a great job and they're a good basketball team and it's an opportunity for us to play a good basketball team and try to make ourselves better," said Murphy. "Is there more to it because of the rivalry? Absolutely, there's no question about that. Do we both want to win the tournament? Yes we do, so it's going to make for a good game.
"For both of us we want to use this as a springboard going into conference play and it's going to be a battle, there's no question about it," added the coach. "Watching (North) play tonight, they're executing well, they're shooting well and guarding people so we've got our hands full, there's no doubt about that."
Mark Winans led the charge for the host Panthers (6-3) on Friday with 16 points, five assists and four rebounds, while Jesse Mondry added 10 points, four rebounds and two assists and Adrian Garcia managed eight points, four assists and three steals despite limited action due to foul trouble.
Redmond's Matt Dahlen poured in 18 points to go with five rebounds and Trevor Genz added 10 points and four boards for Redmond (5-4), which committed 25 turnovers and shot only 17-for-45 (38 percent) from the field.
"We had our two guys get on track tonight, we just couldn't get the rest of the team on track," said Redmond head coach Jon Corbett. "I really have to credit South Medford's defense on that. They got a chance to scout us last night and did a great job of making things very difficult for us."
South Medford also countered with a steady touch from the field, dropping in 23 of 42 shots (55 percent) and 6 of 16 from 3-point range (38 percent). The host Panthers turned around a 14-10 deficit after one quarter by scoring the first 10 points of the second quarter and never looked back.
"They shot really, really well and when one team shoots like that and you're having a tough time getting on track offensively, then the lead's going to grow," added Corbett.
The real key was Winans' ability to finally settle in for South Medford. The 6-foot-1 junior has been incredibly active thus far in his first season since transferring from North Medford, but too often has gotten in his own way by trying to move too fast and do too much. He had 11 points, four rebounds and three assists by halftime against Redmond, and in a much more controlled manner.
"We're just trying to get Mark to relax and play," said Murphy. "He wants to please you and wants to do the best he can and be the best on every play, and those are great attributes, but that's not what's going to happen. You've just got to relax and the game will come to you and I think it did tonight. He shot it better and rebounded the ball better and we got a good performance out of him. We need that as we continue forward."
Winans, who knocked down four of his team's 3-pointers, agreed with Murphy's assessment.
"I've been holding myself to these extreme limits just personally, I feel like, coming to a new school and everything," he said. "But I feel like tonight I just kind of settled in and played like I usually do."
Whether that peace of mind can continue another night certainly will be tested as he goes up against his former teammates, who shared a third-place run in the Class 6A state tournament one year ago.
"Obviously it's a big game," said Winans. "They're a good team and Plank's a really good coach and I've got a lot of friends on that team. It'll be fun to kinda go out and play against my old guys."
As a side note to Friday's outcome, Murphy moved into sole possession of fourth place on Oregon's all-time boys basketball coaching list with his 620th victory, breaking a tie with former Sunset coach Ken Harris (619-358). In seven years at St. Mary's High, Murphy posted a 123-42 record and led the Crusaders to the state title in 1979. In his 25th year at South Medford, Murphy stands 497-145 — with another state crown in 2007 — for an overall ledger of 620-187.
"I'm very proud of that because that's a lot of wins," said Murphy, "It says a couple things. One, you've obviously coached for a long time and, secondly, I've had very good players. I'm very proud of that and proud of what we've built here. I've had great kids and great support and great assistant coaches. I just fell into an ideal spot and it's been awful good to me, awful good."
Mike Doherty (850-390), Nick Robertson (711-344) and Barry Adams (656-317) are the winningest coaches in Oregon history and have all retired.
REDMOND (39) — Dahlen 18, Genz 10, Rodby 4, Brown 4, Cravens 3, Thomas 0, Bordges 0, Powell 0, Davies 0, Nieves 0, Craig 0. Totals: 17-45 2-6 39.
SOUTH MEDFORD (61) — Winans 16, Mondry 10, Garcia 8, Toreson 7, Carpenter 5, Lallo 4, Keepes 4, Robertson 3, Orndoff 2, Monical 2, Massey 0. Totals: 23-42 9-15 61.
Redmond 14 4 12 9 — 39
South Medford 10 17 20 14 — 61
3-point goals — Redmond 3-10 (Genz 2, Cravens 1), South Medford 6-16 (Winans 4, Mondry 1, Toreson 1). Fouled out — Genz.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry