Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
South Medford's Ashley Bolston and Keyari Sleezer combined for 45 points as the top-ranked Panthers cruised past Roseburg, 77-30, on Tuesday in a Southern Oregon Hybrid girls basketball contest that saw starter Andee Ritter re-aggravate a knee injury.
Ritter, who suffered an MCL sprain on Jan. 18 in a road loss to Salesian, Calif., was making her return to the court after missing South's last two games.
She re-aggravated the injury with 4:33 left in the third quarter at South Medford High after stealing the ball, racing to the hoop and going down awkwardly as she was fouled attempting a layup.
The knee will be re-assessed today.
Ritter was able to move slowly on her own after initially being helped off the court. Cole said it was unlikely that she'll play against Crater on Friday, but did not rule out the possibility.
"I hope that the doctor gives her family a more restrictive approach for a while because the most meaningful contribution from her would be to be able to finish the season," he said.
Sleezer was trailing during the play when Ritter got hurt.
"It kind of looked like you could tell they made contact and it looked like her knee just buckled out," Sleezer said. "That was a little scary."
Ritter, who wore a light knee brace heading into the game, stayed on the ground in pain as South head coach Tom Cole and a trainer tended to her. She was helped off the court and Lauren Orndoff shot her free throws. After sitting on the bench for three minutes, Ritter gingerly left the gymnasium without help for treatment in the locker room.
She returned to the gym with about 30 seconds left in the game with ice wrapped around her knee, walking carefully on her own to greet her teammates.
Ritter gave the Panthers (14-3, 5-0 SOH) a spark with two 3-point makes and a pair of steals after entering the contest with her team trailing by a point at the 6:17 mark of the second quarter.
Her first triple a couple minutes in broke a 16-16 tie and ignited a 16-0 South run.
Bolston finished with 23 points (including four 3s), seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and three steals and Sleezer added 22 points for the Panthers, who connected on nine 3-pointers.
"I think we really just got up and started getting steals and started moving the ball around to look for the open shot," Sleezer said.
Julissa Tago turned in nine points, seven rebounds and six assists for South, which led 32-18 at halftime.
The Panthers slammed the door in the third by outscoring the Indians (8-9, 4-2), 30-9.
Pele Gianotti scored 21 points for Roseburg, which was limited to four second-quarter points.
Ritter was held out of the Panthers' game against Clovis West, Calif., two days after the initial injury as she awaited an MRI scan, which revealed the MCL sprain. The swelling in her knee subsided and she returned to practice and regained full speed quickly, Cole said. Ritter did not play against Grants Pass on Jan. 21 and was cleared by a doctor to suit up against the Indians, Cole said.
The plan on Tuesday was to bring Ritter off the bench and use her sparingly, Cole said.
"She desperately wanted to play," Cole said. "I thought in the first quarter I would sit her. It was a really close game and you get behind and she is chomping at the bit. We put her in and, you know, she obviously makes a huge difference in the game and changes the whole momentum. We never looked back."
Cole said he believes fans will question his decision to allow Ritter to return when she did, rather than resting her longer.
"I am certain people will wonder if she came back too soon and I myself am wondering that," he said. "Yet, I can only be responsible to what the kid is telling me, what the doctors are telling us, what the parents are conveying about the health of their kid. And if any of those variables had not been good, we wouldn't have done it. In this case, all of those sources endorsed her to come back at her accord when she felt like she could do it. None of them gave timelines."
Tago talked with Ritter after the game and felt optimistic.
"She just said she tweaked it a little bit coming down for a layup," Tago said. "She said she's fine. She is just gonna take it day by day."
ROSEBURG (30) — Wyscaver 0, Chong 0, Farrington 0, Epps 0, Johnson 3, Stricklin 0, Backen 0, Stotler 0, Gianotti 21, Jackson 3, Boscher 3, Weber 0. Totals: 9 8-15 30.
SOUTH MEDFORD (77) — Williams 4, Tago 9, Johnson 0, Ritter 7, Bolston 23, Orndoff 6, Sleezer 22, Lemons 0, Falls 5, Washington 1. Totals: 28 12-18 77.
Roseburg 14 4 9 3 — 30
South Medford 14 18 30 15 — 77
3-point goals — Roseburg 4 (Gianotti 4), South Medford 9 (Bolston 4, Sleezer 2, Ritter 2, Tago 1). Technical foul — Roseburg head coach.
JV result — South Medford won.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt