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...
It pained Scott Plankenhorn to even say the numbers.
"Eight-for-30," the North Medford boys basketball head coach said, letting his words hang in the air before continuing. "We can't go 8-for-30 in the second half. That is all there is to be said, really."
The Black Tornado turned in a strong first-half effort against South Eugene in the opening round of the Class 6A state playoffs, but a pair of second-half shooting droughts proved costly in a 47-42 loss to the Axemen on Wednesday at North Medford High.
South Eugene will next face Sheldon in the second round on Saturday for the right to advance into the state tournament.
The final chapter in North's season ended in low percentages and heartache.
The Black Tornado (16-8) led 23-15 at halftime before missing its first seven shots to start the third quarter. The Axemen (14-11) opened the period with a 14-0 run to flip the eight-point deficit into a six-point lead with 4:12 to go.
Tristen Holmes' jumper snapped a scoreless stretch of 3 minutes, 57 seconds for North. By then, South Eugene led 29-25.
No sweat: the Black Tornado managed to exit the third with a four-point lead after connecting on five of its final eight shots.
And then it happened again.
North misfired on its first seven shots of the fourth as the Axemen rattled off a 14-1 run. The Black Tornado converted its first bucket of the quarter when Julian Gray scored with 2:46 to go. North trailed 43-38 at that point.
Aaron Browne-Moore's basket with 59.8 seconds to go trimmed South Eugene's lead to three points, but Mason Richards went 4-for-4 at the free-throw line in the final 32.4 seconds to clinch the road triumph.
In the fourth quarter for the Axemen, Eli Lininger scored seven of his game-high 18 points and Richards recorded nine of his 13 points.
Holmes led the Black Tornado with 10 points and five assists. Gray had nine points, eight rebounds and five assists and Brian Bush, Tucker Barry and Edmund Polataivao added six points apiece.
"I feel like it was chance and fate at the same time because some of the shots we missed are the kind we hit every single time," Browne-Moore said. "We just couldn't finish them. It's obviously the case that we weren't mentally there. We thought we had them buried, but obviously they came out with more passion than we did."
North was seeded 10th and South Eugene 23rd.
"It feels pretty terrible actually to know you had the game but gave it away," Holmes said. "We didn't give enough energy."
The Axemen committed 12 of their 18 turnovers in the first half, which saw the Black Tornado set the pace. North led 13-8 after the first quarter.
"I thought early on they put a lot of pressure on us and hurried us up on offense," South Eugene head coach Dave Hancock said. "We were really out of character. We are much more deliberate than that."
SOUTH EUGENE (47) — Richards 13, Strgar 0, ChubbFertal 6, Moran 3, Kiplinger 0, Lininger 18, Bassett 1, Richards 0, Lea 2, O'Neil 4. Totals: 17 11-14 47.
NORTH MEDFORD (42) — Gray 9, Bush 6, Barry 6, Holmes 10, Ecker 0, Carrasco 0, Browne-Moore 5, Polataivao 6, Powers 0. Totals: 16 5-11 42.
South Eugene 8 7 16 16 — 47
North Medford 13 10 12 7 — 42
3-point goals — South Eugene 2 (Richards 1, Moran 1), North Medford 5 (Bush 2, Gray 1, Barry 1, Holmes 1). Technical fouls — O'Neil.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt