North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
It wasn't double overtime and there was no need for clutch free throws in the final second but the end result was the same for South Medford's boys basketball team Friday night in its second matchup with North Medford this season.
The Panthers authored a blistering start the second time around, converting 76 percent of their shots (16-for-21) in the first half, and rode that momentum to a 65-59 triumph over the Black Tornado in front of a packed house at South Medford High.
South Medford's Jesse Mondry posted 20 points, eight rebounds and two assists, and the Panthers got big games from their other two seniors in Matt Toreson (13 points) and Adrian Garcia (six points, six assists, four rebounds, four steals) to gain the key Southern Oregon Hybrid win.
It was Toreson who previously came through with a pair of foul shots with 1.8 seconds left to lift his team to a 65-64, double-overtime win on Dec. 29 in the championship game of the Abby's Holiday Classic.
"What has to happen in these kind of games is your seniors really need to take the lead like that," said South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy. "Jesse really did step up and played well, and Matt got some big baskets for us and Adrian takes all that (full-court) pressure and does a great job with it. We need that out of them every night because it really makes us a better basketball team."
South Medford (9-4, 2-1 SOH) led only 18-15 at the end of the first quarter thanks to a late scoring surge by North Medford (9-4, 1-2), which rode the broad shoulders of 6-foot-7 post Brandon DeBerry early on. DeBerry dropped in eight of his team-high 13 points in the first quarter and pulled down four of his seven rebounds in that span.
The game began to speed up in the second quarter, however, and South used that to its advantage by turning defensive stops and turnovers into quick transition opportunities. The Panthers shot a sizzling 9-for-12 in the second quarter and led by as many as 16 points before settling in for a 36-22 lead by halftime.
"It was good basketball, it really was," said Murphy. "We moved the ball and got good shots and defended well. To hold a team like that to 22 points in a half, that's a very good effort. The kids came ready to play."
Conversely, North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn wasn't exactly thrilled with his team's 9-for-23 shooting start from the field (39 percent) and their limited defensive success.
"Obviously they played outstanding basketball the first half and shot 70-something percent," said Plankenhorn. "A lot of that is because nobody's guarding anybody. (South) can shoot the ball, Crater learned that Tuesday (in a 66-49 loss). If you leave people open, they can shoot."
It only got marginally better in the second half as the Black Tornado finished 25-for-57 from the field (44 percent) but North's deficit remained significant until a slight fourth-quarter spark made it a six-point game with three minutes to play.
"They showed up and we didn't," Plankenhorn said in frustration of the rivalry game. "It gets old to no-show in the biggest game of the year. It's a fact of life. It's the biggest game and the only game everybody talks about. We could win a million other games but until we win this one it's not going to matter to anybody. It gets old to battle like that all the time and show other teams what we look like and then come over here and just no-show."
The Panthers matched baskets with the Black Tornado through the third quarter and held a 15-point lead two minutes into the final quarter before going into prevent mode and nearly having it backfire again. Two weeks ago, North outscored South 15-8 in the fourth quarter to send it into overtime.
As good as South Medford was from the field — it finished 26-for-42 (62 percent) — the Panthers were disastrous at the foul line in the fourth quarter. South missed six straight at one point and was 6-for-15 from the charity stripe in the final eight minutes. Mondry broke the drought with a pair of pure foul shots after North had cut the lead to 58-52, then added two more seconds later when he was fouled on a defensive rebound to stem the tide.
"The whole fourth quarter we were really trying to play our game and step it up to another level but we just couldn't," said North senior Oshea Bailey, who scored eight of his 10 points in the second half.
Aaron Browne-Moore provided a solid supporting effort for the Tornado with nine points and eight rebounds, while Holmes was limited to seven points after scoring 25 in the first meeting with South. Julian Gray and Garrett Knox each had six points and four rebounds, and Bailey, Holmes and Gray each supplied three assists.
Beyond the leading effort by the Panther seniors, South received 10 points and two rebounds from Mark Winans, eight points and three rebounds from CJ Keepes and four points from Ben Orndoff.
"Our seniors stepped up tonight, and it was great, but we have some different players come in every game it seems like to lead us, like Bryson Carpenter and Mark Winans," said Mondry. "We have a lot of weapons and that's good. When we have two or three guys that are getting open looks and making their shots, we're pretty good."
NORTH MEDFORD (59) — DeBerry 13, Bailey 10, Browne-Moore 9, Holmes 7, Gray 6, Knox 6, Reyes 3, Sherbourne 3, Klug 2. Totals: 25-57 3-10 59.
SOUTH MEDFORD (65) — Mondry 20, Toreson 13, Winans 10, Keepes 8, Garcia 6, Orndoff 4, Lallo 2, Robertson 2, Carpenter 0, Massey 0. Totals: 26-42 10-22 65.
North Medford 15 7 16 21 — 59
South Medford 18 18 13 16 — 65
3-point goals — North Medford 6-14 (Holmes 2, Bailey 2, Reyes 1, Sherbourne 1), South Medford 3-10 (Toreson 1, Winans 1, Mondry 1).
JV score — North Medford 50, South Medford 41.