North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
With weary legs and full hearts, South Medford and Roseburg put forth a timeless battle in a bid for Southern Oregon Hybrid supremacy Tuesday night at South Medford High.
The SOH co-leaders traded big plays like they were commonplace but couldn't quite put the nail in the other's coffin until the 10th-ranked Panthers finally broke away for good in the third overtime en route to a 73-66 triumph.
"This is a great indication why you never give up and you never say die because you don't know what's going to happen," said South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy.
It's unlikely anyone saw the finish playing out as it did because there was very little predictable about how the outcome was reached.
South Medford (12-4, 4-1 SOH) had an 11-point, third-quarter lead erased when Roseburg went on a 19-2 run that spanned into the fourth quarter. Seemingly caught in the tidal wave of momentum, the Panthers found an unlikely source to claw back into contention with a pair of 3-pointers by reserve guard Brandon Robertson that left them down 49-47 with 50 seconds to go.
Roseburg (12-4, 4-2) left the door open after that by going 3-for-6 from the foul line, and South slid right through with a 3-pointer by Matt Toreson with 7.1 seconds to play and two pure free throws by Adrian Garcia with three seconds remaining to send the game into overtime tied 52-all.
The Panthers had the last shot and a chance to seal the victory in the first OT, but Mark Winans couldn't convert either free throw with 1.2 seconds to go and that forced a second overtime tied at 58.
Robertson again came up huge off the bench in the second OT, drilling a corner 3-pointer behind a screen from CJ Keepes with 45 seconds to go. The Indians' chance at a last-second game-winner was denied by good defense from Winans, who forced an errant attempt by Carson Reid.
In the third and final overtime, Keepes sandwiched a putback and an inbounds flash for a basket around one foul shot apiece from Garcia and Winans to build a comfortable 69-63 cushion for the Panthers. Kai Seely's 3-pointer with 12 seconds to go was Roseburg's only basket of the final OT as the Indians lost the battle of attrition.
"I thought our kids did a good job of continuing to battle as long as we could," said Roseburg head coach Craig Stinnett. "On the road to take them to triple overtime with us missing key free throws, you can't ask for anything more. It was a good high school basketball game."
Roseburg finished 27-for-38 from the foul line but was 7-for-12 in the fourth quarter. The Indians regrouped to go a combined 9-for-12 from the charity stripe in the overtime periods but only 2-for-12 from the field.
"It came down to free throws," said Stinnett. "We say it all the time as coaches, free throws win games, and we missed some key ones down the stretch. They hit some big shots in that fourth quarter to get it to overtime in the first place, then we have a couple key guys go out with fouls and by that time it was just attrition and we lost it."
South Medford senior Jesse Mondry led the charge with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Winans had 12 points, eight rebounds and three steals and Toreson added 10 points. The real story, however, was the spark off the bench provided by Robertson, who finished with a career-high 14 points to energize his team.
"How big does Brandon Robertson come up?" Murphy said with a broad smile and shake of the head. "We're probably not in the position we were if he doesn't come in and make those (3-pointers in the fourth quarter), there's no question about it. We had struggled and guys couldn't get shots and couldn't hit shots and then all of a sudden you've got a spark off the bench like that. He did a great job."
The same could be said of Keepes, who scored six of his nine points in the overtimes to go with five rebounds, and Garcia, who shook off an elbow to the head and a couple unsatisfying trips to the foul line (1-for-3) before barely bothering the net on his pair of shots that tied it toward the end of regulation.
"I had missed the first two I'd taken and I was pretty ticked off about that so I knew I had to come back and give our team a chance to win," said Garcia, who totaled six points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals.
Alex Johnson and Carson Reid each scored 17 points to lead Roseburg, while Seely had 10 points and Hayden Lent
Lent pulled down eight boards to go with six points.
Roseburg post Andrew Weber was scoreless at halftime as South built a 28-21 lead and finished with five points before fouling out 40 seconds into the first overtime. Johnson fouled out in similar fashion in the second OT as both teams had multiple players on the court in foul trouble down the stretch.
The Panthers were able to overcome a 15-for-28 showing from the foul line by converting 26 of 58 shots from the field and using several hustle plays to earn second and third chances at the basket.
"I feel like we came in clutch and got the job done but we need to finish it in regulation," added Garcia.
ROSEBURG (66) — A. Johnson 17, Reid 17, Seely 10, Lent 6, Weber 5,Caylor 2, Groshong 7, Haskett 2. Totals: 17-39 27-38 66.
SOUTH MEDFORD (73) — Mondry 18, Robertson 14, Winans 12, Toreson 10, Keepes 9, Garcia 6, Orndoff 4, Carpenter 0, Lallo 0, Massey 0. Totals: 26-58 15-28 73.
Roseburg 14 7 17 14 6 5 3 — 66
South Medford 16 12 10 14 6 5 10 — 73
3-point goals — Roseburg 5-14 (Seely 3, Reid 1, Groshong 1), South Medford 6-20 (Robertson 4, Toreson 2). Fouled out — Weber, A. Johnson, Toreson.
JV score — South Medford 62, Roseburg 50.