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STOCKTON, Calif. — While in the process of learning how to play without a key member of its team, the South Medford girls basketball squad was able to defeat a strong opponent in the conclusion of the MLK Showcase at St. Mary's High Monday.
The Panthers, who lost Andee Ritter to a serious knee injury Saturday, received 17 points each from both Ashley Bolston and Keyari Sleezer and strong defense from freshman Lauren Orndoff in a 62-57 win over Clovis West of Fresno, Calif.
"The reality of losing one of our top scorers and one of the best players on the team and that chemistry piece, once the kids got over the trauma of losing their friend and teammate, they started finding ways to score because it forced us to find scoring in other places," said South Medford coach Tom Cole.
Bolston added 13 rebounds, Sleezer contributed four steals and Julissa Tago had 14 points to go with eight boards. Orndoff, in her first start of the season, picked up five steals.
"Lauren was very good defensively," said Panthers coach Tom Cole. "She kept the pressure up and it was her first time starting a varsity game. I thought it was great for her to step up the way she did in this environment and settle down and play the type of basketball that, in years to come, we'll see more of."
The Panthers (13-3) had a 13-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't until post Jasmin Falls fouled out late in the frame that Clovis West chipped away at the lead.
Clovis West, which has two Division I players in California Poly-bound Emily Anderson and Cal State Fullerton-bound Portia Neale, cut the lead to seven with about three minutes remaining, but the Panthers' defense was sturdy enough to avoid a takeover.
Anderson finished with 15 points and Neale had 12.
"It was just a good atmosphere for good basketball," said Cole of the 10-team invitational, which boasts 58 players headed to Division I schools.
Ritter was injured in a loss to Salesian High of Richmond, Calif., on Saturday. She'll have an MRI on her injured knee today.
SOUTH MEDFORD (62) — Williams 0, Tago 14, Bolston 17, Orndoff 6, Sleezer 17, Lemons 4, Falls 4. Totals: 26 7-10 62.
CLOVIS WEST (57) — Munster 4, Kirkland 8, Stickman 2, Cross 7, Marquez 3, E. Anderson 15, M. Anderson 2, Neale 12, Ruiz 6. Totals: 19 14-18 57.
South Medford 16 14 16 16 — 62
Clovis West 19 8 10 20 — 57
3-point goals — South Medford 2 (Sleezer 1, Tago 1), Clovis West 6 (Neale 2, E. Anderson 2, Marquez 1, Cross 1). Fouled out — Falls.