South Medford head boys basketball coach Dennis Murphy entered the gymnasium at South Medford High wearing his classic gray suit with a blue and white tie. Crater head coach Glenn Johannes took to the sidelines sporting a sharp dark gray sweater and black dress pants.
The Comets didn't earn many more style points after that. Meanwhile, the Panthers looked silky smooth in their 82-47 win on Friday.
The victory kept South Medford (12-6) in a tie for first place with North Medford (12-4) in the Southern Oregon Hybrid with a 5-1 record. The Black Tornado beat Grants Pass, 54-44, on Friday. The cross-town rivals will play at South on Tuesday. The last time they played, North won, 57-49, on Jan. 17.
"(This win) keeps you in the spot you want to be, especially going into North," Murphy said. "We want to level the playing field. If they come over and beat us, they have the tiebreaker, so at this point it's the most important game of the season for us."
As the contest on Friday moved along, the Panthers' cuts got crisper, their passes more precise, their defense more dogged and their shots sharper. They outmuscled Crater (6-11, 2-5 SOH) with a 30-19 rebound advantage, knocked down 30 of their 51 field-goal attempts and canned eight 3-pointers.
Meanwhile, Crater's play went south in a hurry with a five-point first quarter, 21 total turnovers and 8-of-21 shooting at the free-throw line.
"They were more physical and we didn't respond to it," Johannes said.
South's Bryson Carpenter paced a balanced attack with 17 points off the bench. The senior point guard scored 10 straight points in the second quarter to help the Panthers build a 35-18 lead. His attacking efforts during the stretch included a 3, a pair of fastbreak layups and three made free throws.
Mark Winans turned in 12 points and four assists, C.J. Keepes 11 points, Ben Orndoff nine points, Cameron English eight points and Brayden Massey seven points, seven assists and four steals for South.
The Comets didn't score until the 2:11 mark of the opening period and went 2 of 7 from the field as the Panthers confronted them with full-court pressure and a tough halfcourt zone defense.
"It really starts on the defensive end and we practice so much on defense," Winans said. "Murph preaches so much on defense, and we got out in transition starting in the first quarter, ran and scored a lot of points."
Things just kept getting better for the home team, which committed three of its 11 turnovers in the second half. South rattled off a 13-5 run to begin the third quarter.
Carpenter buried a nothing-but-net 3 to give the Panthers a 78-56 advantage in the fourth, prompting Crater to call a timeout. As South's Trenton Monical walked toward his squad's bench, he roared, "Let's go!"
"I was pleased with everyone's effort," Massey said. "We went out there and just played as a team and with intensity and Bryson Carpenter went out there and had the best game of the year. He dominated. Defensively we shut them down and held them under 50 points. That was a big goal for us."
Dean Orozco led Crater with nine points (all 3-pointers), while Tanner Jaasko had eight points and Connor Lane and Race Reiter added seven points apiece.
"What it comes down to whether you lose by 35 or 3 is how you respond," Johannes said. "How will they will come back in practice and respond? Will you put your best foot forward or let that loss define who we are?"
CRATER (47) — Hintemeyer 3, Morgan 4, Pomeroy 3, Asher 6, Jaasko 8, Lane 7, Reiter 7, Davis 0, Orozco 9, Gustafson 0. Totals: 17 8-21 47.
SOUTH MEDFORD (82) — Carpenter 17, Lupton 6, Winans 12, Robertson 0, Orndoff 9, Massey 7, Bradford 4, Keepes 11, Monical 4, English 8, Lallo 4. Totals: 30 14-20 82.
Crater 5 13 14 15 — 47
South Medford 12 23 18 29 — 82
3-point goals — Crater 5 (Orozco 3, Reiter 1, Morgan 1), South Medford 8 (Carpenter 2, Lupton 2, Winans 2, Orndoff 1, Massey 1). Fouled out — Lallo, Hintemeyer.
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