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...
Unbeaten McKay limped into the Abby's Holiday Classic and quickly added another injury to its list on Friday night, leaving the Royal Scots ripe for the picking during first-round play at North Medford High.
North Medford used a frantic trapping defense to get McKay out of rhythm on offense and pulled away with a 10-0 fourth-quarter run en route to a 62-49 triumph.
The Black Tornado (6-1) was able to force 20 turnovers while committing only nine of its own against McKay (7-1), which was minus injured point guards Jacob Brustad and Isaiah Montano.
"We let their pressure get to us and that was the difference in the game," said McKay head coach Dean Sanderson. "Their pressure was able to take us out of what we wanted to do."
Neither team really held much of an advantage through three quarters, although a Tristen Holmes layin in the waning seconds gave North Medford a 40-34 lead to open the final quarter.
After Holmes opened the fourth with a jumper and McKay's Larenzo Sterling answered with two free throws, North Medford was able to provide separation with a 10-0 run that included 3-pointers by Brian Bush and Tucker Barry and only one shot attempt by the Scots in a span of five possessions.
"I think this was by far our best defensive game so far," said Holmes, who had a pair of steals and worked hard to slow McKay's Dillon James. "I think we can keep this up every game as long as we come with intensity and energy and just trust in one another and trust that our rotations are going to be there like they were today."
Holmes netted a game-high 20 points to go with five assists, three rebounds and two steals for the Black Tornado, which advances to play Southridge in the Abby's semifinals at 7:45 tonight. The Skyhawks topped Crater 66-43 earlier Friday at North Medford High. The Comets and Scots will meet at 4:15 p.m. today.
Julian Gray added 14 points, two rebounds and two steals for the Black Tornado, while fellow senior Aaron Browne-Moore added seven points and three assists.
North Medford also received an instrumental effort from Edmund Polataivao, who contributed five points, 10 rebounds, five steals and two assists. It was Polataivao's energy in trapping situations and by forcing second-chance opportunities with his rebounding that proved contagious on this night.
"I don't even know where he gets it," Gray said of the 6-foot-1 junior with a shake of his head. "He brings it to practice and gives us high energy, and in huddles he's the one who tells us that we need to have high energy. I think it's the football side coming from him. He's just a hard worker and knows that's where he's going to get his buckets and it forces us to play at a high energy as well."
McKay appeared up for the challenge early on by taking a 9-2 lead and then withstanding a second-quarter foot injury to starter Jorge Garibay to hold that advantage for most of the first half. Garibay crumpled to the court after coming up lame on a quick stop while trying to defend Holmes in transition and his status for today was unknown as of press time.
Browne-Moore scored five straight points for his team to give North its first lead in the final minute of the second quarter and the Black Tornado took a 24-21 edge into intermission.
McKay's Micah Sanders and James each scored nine points in the first half to keep the Scots in contention, but North Medford was able to clamp down on the leading duo in the second half to secure the victory. Sanders, who had six rebounds, was held without a point in the final 16 minutes while James finished with a team-high 13 points and seven rebounds.
"It was a challenge; they're a very good squad," North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn said of slowing McKay. "(James) is a handful and we had to do some adjustments to make sure we got the ball out of his hands with some trapping action. I wish we would've finished a little better at the end but overall it was one of our better efforts."
Sterling finished with seven points and Kris Williams came off the bench for six points and three rebounds for McKay, which went 11 deep in its rotation and outrebounded North Medford 30-24.
"We're good enough and have enough depth and enough seniors that we can still compete," said Sanderson. "That's a game where they just outplayed us and outexecuted us in the end and that was the difference."
MCKAY (49) — James 13, Sanders 9, Sterling 7, Williams 6, Roberts 5, Harris 4, Garibay 3, Makiachy 2, Lao 0, Garcia 0, Smith 0. Totals: 21-39 4-10 49.
NORTH MEDFORD (62) — Holmes 20, Gray 14, Browne-Moore 7, Polataivao 5, Bush 5, Barry 5, Ecker 4, Wilkins 2, Powers 0, Carrasco 0. Totals: 23-54 11-15 62.
McKay 11 10 13 15 — 49
North Medford 8 16 16 22 — 62
3-point goals — McKay 3-9 (Garibay 1, James 1, Roberts 1), North Medford 5-16 (Holmes 2, Gray 1, Bush 1, Barry 1).
The Comets (3-4) continue play today at 4:15 p.m. versus McKay.
Tanner Jaasko scored a season-high 14 points for the Comets, who also got five points and nine rebounds from Connor Lane. Jacob Hintemeyer scored eight points and Race Reiter had six.
A.J. Monterossi led the Skyhawks' balanced attack with 13 points.
Southridge (5-3) opened a 32-22 lead by halftime and sealed the victory with a 15-7 edge in the third quarter.
SOUTHRIDGE (66) — Giraldi 2, Beekman 5, Monterossi 13, Pete 6, Reel 10, Seng 8, Van Allen 6, El-Mansy 2, Gaddis 7, Christensen 7. Totals: 25 9-13 66.
CRATER (43) — Roland 0, Hintemeyer 8, Morgan 1, Pomeroy 0, Jaasko 14, Lane 5, Reiter 6, Davis 3, Orozco 2, Gustafson 4. Totals: 12 15-23 43.
Southridge 14 18 15 19 — 66
Crater 8 14 7 14 — 43
3-point goals — Southridge 5 (Van Allen 2, Beekman 1, Reel 1, Seng 1), Crater 4 (Jaasko 2, Hintemeyer 1, Davis 1).