Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
For the second time in as many games, North Medford found itself trailing with only seconds to go in nonleague boys basketball Friday night.
And, like five days ago, the Black Tornado found a way to turn defeat into victory with some late-game heroics at North Medford High.
After getting the benefit of a double-dribble call to get the ball back against Bend trailing 52-51 with 53.5 seconds to play, North Medford outscored the Lava Bears 5-2 down the stretch to eke out a 56-54 comeback victory.
The scene was reminiscent of last Sunday's 56-55 win over Wilson, where a late turnover led to a game-clinching basket by Aaron Browne-Moore.
"These two wins have been a little close and raising cholesterol levels and all that," said North Medford senior Julian Gray, "but hopefully (today) we can come out and play really good for everyone (against Summit)."
The fact North Medford (2-0) even had a chance at a comeback was largely due to the performance put in by Tristen Holmes. The 6-foot-2 junior guard knocked down four of his six 3-pointers in the first quarter to single-handedly outscore the Lava Bears, and finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
"My teammates found me early and they got me open shots and I hit them like I was supposed to," said Holmes, who missed his first two shots before draining treys on four straight Tornado possessions. "It was just rolling at the beginning. I was looking for my shot a little bit early, but then everybody started coming in toward the end."
North Medford took its first lead of the fourth quarter when Browne-Moore, who had only one basket in the prior three quarters, dribbled down the lane and pulled up for a close-range floater with 38 seconds to go.
Undaunted, Bend (0-2) answered right back when Cole Harmeson drove the lane for a layin with 19 seconds remaining. Gray then made sure that celebration was short-lived when he quickly turned upcourt, split the defense and found Edmund Polataivao alone underneath the basket for a layin with 10 seconds to play to regain North's advantage.
"That's one of the drills we run in practice, those late-game situations," added Gray, who scored five of his nine points in the fourth quarter. "In 20 seconds you've got to get down there. I was looking for a basket and luckily enough Edmund was right there wide open and made his layup and that helped us out a lot."
Tornado senior Brian Bush was then tagged for a foul with 8.7 seconds to go after bumping Bend point guard Wyatt Beaumarchais as he brought the ball upcourt. Beaumarchais, who was tagged with the double dribble earlier after being trapped by Gray and Polataivao, had a chance to tie but for the second time in the quarter missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity.
Browne-Moore rebounded the missed free throw and got the ball to Gray, who was quickly fouled and made his first shot with 5.4 seconds to play before missing the second. Again, Browne-Moore, who also drew a key charging foul late in the fourth, tracked down the errant foul shot and kicked it out to Gray to run out the clock.
"It was a scrappy game by both teams," said North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn, whose team hosts Summit at 12:45 p.m. today. "We obviously didn't play a perfect game but I didn't think we were playing terrible. (Bend) just played hard basketball. They got movement and spacing and anytime the ball bounced around they ended up stepping into shots and made it."
"The good thing is we keep competing no matter how good or bad it is," added Plankenhorn.
As well-rounded as the finish was for the Black Tornado, Holmes was the story for the first three quarters and his teammates didn't hesitate to find him on the court.
"We were just trying to get him the ball," said Gray, who had six rebounds, four assists and two steals. "When you've got someone shooting like Ray Allen right there you've got to give him the ball as much as possible."
When the Lava Bears finally started to put almost all of their defensive focus on Holmes, who had 24 of his team's 40 points through three quarters, it opened things up for everyone else.
"Once you start shooting like that in the first half they're going to be a lot more sticky," Holmes said of the added defensive attention. "This is a team game and I only ended up with one point in the fourth quarter but the rest of the team came through and that's how we got the win. It wasn't because I made shots in the fourth quarter, it's because everybody else got their shots going."
Along with Gray, Polataivao capitalized by scoring six of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and finished with four rebounds and three steals. Browne-Moore also totaled six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
"You can't say enough about what Tristen did tonight," said Plankenhorn, "but without Edmund and Browne-Moore down the stretch doing all those loose ball things and rebounding and making baskets we don't win the game."
Harmeson led the charge for Bend with 11 points and four rebounds, while Beaumarchais had five points and five assists, Connor Scott had eight points and seven rebounds and J.J. Spitler added eight points in a balanced effort.
Bryan Holliday came off the bench for seven points, Jaylin Robinson added six points and three boards and Jacob Parsons pulled in five rebounds for the Lava Bears, who play today at South Medford.
BEND (54) — Harmeson 11, Scott 8, Spitler 8, Holliday 7, J. Robinson 6, Beaumarchais 5, Parsons 4, C. Johnson 3, Warinner 2. Totals: 22-52 4-9 54.
NORTH MEDFORD (56) — Holmes 25, Polataivao 12, Gray 9, Browne-Moore 4, Bush 2, Barry 2, Carrasco 2, Ecker 0, Powers 0, Wilkins 0. Totals: 23-51 4-11 56.
Bend 11 19 15 9 — 54
North Medford 14 13 13 16 — 56
3-point goals — Bend 6-21 (Spitler 2, Harmeson 1, J. Robinson 1, Holliday 1, Beaumarchais 1), North Medford 6-17 (Holmes 6).
JV score — North Medford 59, Bend 41.