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...
One year after the future of the Abby's Holiday Classic came into question, the boys basketball tournament is back and as strong as ever.
The 24th annual eight-team event begins Friday with games at North Medford and South Medford high schools. It continues with all of the contests Saturday and Sunday at North Medford.
Last year's edition fell on hard times because of defections. Three teams backed out for varying reasons, and replacement teams were brought in so the five remaining squads could each get in three games.
"After the debacle of last year," said Dennis Murphy, the South Medford coach and athletic director who is a co-founder of the event, "I made a real effort to go out and find teams, and I tried to go after better teams, I will admit that."
It appears he succeeded.
"I think we have a very good field, better than we've had in some time," he said.
Along with the Medford host teams, Crater — one of the fill-ins last year — gives the Southern Oregon Hybrid three representatives.
The Metro League sends two teams, Southridge and Westview, while Salem schools Sprague and McKay and Eugene team Sheldon round out the lineup.
In the opening round at South Medford on Friday, Sprague (2-4) plays Westview (5-1) at 6 p.m., and Sheldon (5-2) faces South Medford (5-2) at 7:45.
Openers at North Medford are Southridge (4-3) against Crater (3-3) at 6 p.m. and McKay (7-0) taking on North Medford (5-1) at 7:45.
The teams have a combined record of 36-16, and all but Sprague are .500 or above.
Four squads are in the top 10 in the OSAA Class 6A power rankings: No. 3 McKay, No. 4 Sheldon, No. 7 North Medford and No. 9 Westview.
Two teams — South Medford and Southridge — made the final eight in the state tournament last season, with the latter placing fourth.
It's not uncommon for tournament hosts to schedule a relatively easy opening game in hopes of advancing. There's only one problem, said North Medford coach Scott Plankenhorn.
"It's a pretty loaded tournament," he said. "I don't know who you could draw."
The Black Tornado gets the only unbeaten team to start with in McKay.
South Medford gets a Sheldon team that is the highest-ranked team in the bracket.
"It'll be quality competition," said Plankenhorn. "It'll be fun and there will be a lot of good games for the fans. It'll be a well-deserved champion with this many good teams in it."
Despite the chaos in putting together a field, last year's Abby's title game may have been the best in tournament history.
The two local teams met in the finals for the fifth time, and South Medford eked out a double-overtime victory, 65-64. Panthers senior Matt Toreson made two free throws with 1.8 seconds left to seal the win.
South Medford is 4-1 in championship matchups with its crosstown rival.