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Nothing comes easy once you get into the state playoffs, and 10th-ranked South Medford faced that reality Wednesday night during first-round boys basketball action against Beaverton.
Having won three of their final five games, the Beavers entered South Medford High with confidence and nothing to lose and made things interesting for the host Panthers before ultimately falling short, 68-52.
"Playoff basketball is different than the regular season, it's a lot tougher," said South Medford senior Mark Winans, who poured in 15 points. "But once we kinda settled in tonight and realized the speed of the game and how physical it was going to be, we kinda stepped up to the challenge."
South Medford (19-6) used a 9-0 run to close the first half with a 30-19 advantage, then added another 9-2 run to close the third quarter and deny any hopes by Beaverton (9-15) of a comeback.
"You need to get those spurts and we made some big baskets tonight," said Panthers head coach Dennis Murphy. "We played like we play all the time, everybody contributed and did some good things."
Junior point guard Brayden Massey was steady on both ends of the floor to finish with 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists while senior Ben Orndoff had 12 points and junior Cameron English added nine points and six rebounds for the Panthers.
South Medford will look to advance to the Class 6A state tournament at 6 p.m. Saturday when it plays host to Southridge, a 77-65 winner over Forest Grove on Wednesday. The Skyhawks (14-11) finished third in the Metro League, which is also home to Beaverton.
"These games are not easy," added Murphy. "It'll get tougher on Saturday, we know that, but we're playing in it so we're happy about that."
Beaverton pulled within 21-19 midway through the second quarter before Winans popped in a deep 3-pointer off an assist by Brandon Robertson, who finished with four points and six rebounds.
Massey followed with a three-point opportunity that turned into a four-point possession when he missed the free throw but corralled the rebound and scored again. Orndoff then tacked on a driving basket to cap the first half.
"We didn't block out particularly well on that free throw and they made shots and we didn't get very good quality possessions in that 9-0 run they had to finish the half," said Beaverton head coach Jeff Bennett. "Kudos to them because we were never able to really overcome that pretty much."
The Beavers again tried to put forth a rally behind the play of senior point guard Martin Tannler, who scored his team's first seven points of the third quarter and finished with a game-high 23 points to go with seven rebounds.
When a 3-pointer by Tannler cut Beaverton's deficit to 37-33, the Panthers turned it on again — spearheaded a second time by Winans, who scored on a drive and then blocked a shot to give South possession.
"Come playoff time now I know that we need to win and if that means me scoring a little more then that's what it means," added Winans. "I'll do whatever I need to do to make the team win."
A jumper by Robertson, charge taken by Hunter Bradford and basket by Massey put South Medford back up 43-35. Orndoff's second 3-pointer of the game put a cap on the 9-2 run to help the Panthers to a 46-35 advantage entering the final quarter.
"They've got really good guards and we just weren't able to defend their guards for 32 minutes is basically all it was," said Bennett. "If you take away 41/2 minutes of the ballgame, it's down to the wire, but those 41/2 minutes absolutely destroyed us."
Winans and Massey kept up their strong play in the fourth, where South Medford ultimately sealed the victory by converting 10 of its 18 shots from the foul line after taking only two free throws in the opening three quarters.
"We made some good team plays and played hard out there and just stuck with it tonight," said Massey.
Murphy also had praise for Massey and Winans, with the latter especially coming up big after a season of deferring his scoring to provide more balance on the floor.
"Mark has done a good job of that but in big games you've got to step up and make a big play and he did that, there's no question about that," said Murphy. "We need him to continue to do that. And Brayden's just a tough, tough kid. I just love that about him. He wants to be on the floor and he's gonna compete like mad, and when you've got to make the big play, often he'll do it for us."
South Medford shot 47 percent from the field (26-for-55) while limiting Beaverton to an 18-for-62 effort (29 percent). Success from 3-point range was especially telling, with the Panthers knocking down 5 of 13 attempts while the Beavers managed to make only 3 of 20 — with 15 of those attempts coming in the second half.
C.J. Keepes added five points and four assists, while Bradford pulled down five rebounds to help the cause down low for the Southern Oregon Hybrid champion Panthers, who are seeded fourth overall.
"It's going to be a grind, it's really going to be a grind," Murphy said. "Things you might get away with earlier in the year you're not going to get away with now, both from trying to get shots to guarding people to grabbing loose balls and rebounds. The game becomes much more physical and you've got to be willing to step up and take a punch and give a punch. That's what playoff basketball is all about."
BEAVERTON (52) — Tannler 23, Peacock 7, Talalemoto 5, Crawford 4, Brands 3, Alonzo 3, Hilbers 2, Barker 2, Walton 2, N. Sweet 1, Parker 0, Noyer 0, H. Sweet 0, Hockley 0. Totals: 18-62 13-19 52.
SOUTH MEDFORD (68) — Massey 19, Winans 15, Orndoff 12, English 9, Keepes 5, Robertson 4, Bradford 2, Monical 1, Lallo 1, Lupton 0, Contreras 0, Carter 0, Washington 0. Totals: 26-55 11-20 68.
Beaverton 9 10 16 17 — 52
South Medford 16 14 16 22 — 68
3-point goals — Beaverton 3-20 (Tannler 2, Alonzo 1), South Medford 5-13 (Orndoff 2, Winans 2, Massey 1). Technical fouls — Winans.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry