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...
The South Medford girls basketball team didn't have any trouble with its opponent on Friday night.
Things figure to be different this evening, but the top-ranked Panthers welcome the challenge.
South cruised past cross-town rival North Medford, 75-34, in Southern Oregon Hybrid action before going to bed and getting up early for a trip to Stockton, Calif., to compete in the MLK Showcase.
First up for the Panthers in the showcase is Salesian of Richmond, Calif., which features Louisville-bound Mariya Moore (a 6-foot wing) and 6-4 Colorado commit Zoe Correal. The two squads square off at 8 p.m.
South, which has won six straight, takes on Clovis West, another powerful California program, on Monday before returning home. The Panthers will break up their league schedule once more on Feb. 8 with a visit to Redding, Calif., to play Enterprise (Calif.).
"We thought it was the right thing to do at this point in the season," said South head coach Tom Cole. "We are through our first round of conference games, and this gives us a chance to compete against some teams that we won't get to see very much of."
Against the Black Tornado (7-6, 1-2 SOH), the Panthers (11-2, 3-0) recorded a season-best 18 blocks. Senior Ashley Bolston erupted for 23 points, eight rebounds, six blocks and four steals. The SOH's leading scorer had eight points and four blocks in the first quarter.
Keyari Sleezer turned in 14 points, six assists and five rebounds and Andee Ritter had 12 points (all on 3-pointers) for South, which stumbled to a 19-12 lead after the first quarter before turning up the heat to take a 21-point halftime advantage.
"Obviously, there isn't a weakness on that team," North head coach Tim Karrick said. "It's a tough matchup. I thought we did a decent job of taking care of the ball for the most part, a decent job against their press, but eventually they go on runs."
The 6-foot-2 Bolston stood a couple inches taller than anyone else on the court. The Washington State-bound standout's blocks were emphatic and her buckets were hard to deny.
"We put the pressure on and kept going at them," Bolston said.
Joci Ellis led North with 16 points. Jasmin Falls and Julissa Tago both had eight points for the Panthers, who tallied 14 steals.
Bolston, Ritter and the others will try to build on the effort in their game tonight.
"It was a good game to get our defense going heading into the tournament," Ritter said.
Cole went to his bench for much of second half against North. South owned a 59-26 lead entering the fourth quarter, then the Black Tornado began the final period with a missed shot and five straight turnovers.
"I thought that we had some balanced scoring tonight," Cole said. "I thought we did a pretty good job of controlling the tempo of this game."
NORTH MEDFORD (34) — Ellis 16, Anderson 2, Rivero 0, Martin 5, Thomas 3, Bumgardner 0, Cowan 0, Koistinen 3, Hall 3, Wizner 2, Ross 0. Totals: 12 10-21 34.
SOUTH MEDFORD (75) — Williams 3, Tago 8, Johnson 2, Ritter 12, Bolston 23, Orndoff 5, Sleezer 14, Lemons 0, Falls 8, Washington 0. Totals: 26 16-23 75.
North Medford 12 4 10 8 — 34
South Medford 19 18 22 16 — 75
3-point goals — South Medford 7 (Ritter 4, Bolston 3, Sleezer 1). Fouled out — Bumgardner.
JV score — South Medford 51, North Medford 31.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt and facebook.com/danjonesmt