Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
PORTLAND — South Medford had its chances to snap a three-year drought at the Moda Center on Thursday, but the fourth-seeded Panthers just couldn't capitalize against Jesuit in another disappointing showing in the Class 6A boys basketball state quarterfinals.
South Medford shot poorly, turned the ball over and generally looked nothing like the team that had won 11 straight games entering the state tournament, and yet the Panthers still found themselves in a two-possession game to open the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer by Brandon Robertson actually cut South Medford's deficit to 32-30 with three minutes to go, but Jesuit was able to close the game out from the free-throw line en route to a 42-36 victory.
"We surely know that you play better teams and they guard tougher up here but we shoot 31 percent and the bottom line is you're not going to beat teams up here doing that," said South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy.
Neither team was particularly effective from the field, with South Medford knocking down 11 of 35 shots (31 percent) compared to 12 of 40 (30 percent) by Jesuit. The teams combined to shoot 7-for-32 from 3-point range to negate any advantage there, but the Crusaders finished 15-for-21 from the foul line while the Panthers were 10-for-16.
"The sad part of it is, and nothing against (Jesuit head coach) Gene (Potter) and his team, but they weren't a heckuva lot better," added Murphy. "The difference was they got more foul shots opportunities than we did in the second half (14 to 10) and we missed six of ours after going 6-for-6 in the first half."
Brandon Robertson came off the bench to lead South Medford with nine points to go with four rebounds, while Brayden Massey had eight points and the Panthers got six points apiece from Cameron English and Mark Winans.
Jack Nadelhoffer was the lone player to reach double figures in scoring with 10 points for Jesuit, which led throughout and used a 10-4 surge in the second quarter to open a 24-15 halftime advantage.
"We knew we were better than them but we just didn't come out ready to play," said Robertson, who was 3-for-6 from the field and had one assist and one steal. "They punched us in the mouth and we didn't punch them back."
The Panthers committed seven of their 11 turnovers in the first half, compared to only one turnover by Jesuit, and were outrebounded 18-12, many coming on the offensive end.
"We came in and offensive rebounds were 8-1 and turnovers were 7-1 in favor of them," said Murphy, "so there's 13 different opportunities that come into it and that's why they're up 24-15."
"We hadn't been behind in a long time and when we get behind we're not very good," he added. "To our credit we've come out well and have gotten ahead, but we didn't do it today."
The quarterfinals loss marked the fourth straight year the Panthers have failed to advance to the semifinals, and leaves South Medford (20-7) with a 9 a.m. date today against Central Catholic to avoid going winless at the Moda Center. The Rams (17-10) lost a tough 74-63 game to defending champion West Linn on Thursday.
"We've just got to get up ready to play and come out and play with more physicality than we did today," Robertson said of the quick turnaround.
For all that was unusual for South Medford on Thursday afternoon, it was 32-26 in Jesuit's favor heading to the fourth quarter and over four minutes went off the clock before English made 1 of 2 from the foul line for the first point of the quarter.
English was fouled moments later and missed both free throws, but the long carom off the second miss found its way to Robertson, who coolly drained a 3-pointer to make it 32-30 with three minutes to play.
Any hopes of momentum were quickly dashed, however, when Jesuit worked the ball quickly down court and Reid Bucy scored on a rebound basket off an errant driving shot by Ryan McEvoy.
"I thought we had it," said Robertson, "and then I turned and they were going in for a layup and got the putback and that was just devastating."
Robertson answered with a pair of free throws to make it 34-32 with 1:47 to play, but a foul by Winans put Daniel Nelson on the line and he made both for Jesuit. Robertson then missed the mark on a drive to the basket and Bucy snared the rebound and was fouled, converting both ends of a one-and-one at the other end for a 38-32 Jesuit lead.
An inside basket by English off an assist by Winans later made it 40-34 with 29 seconds to go, but Ryan Bay split foul shots on Jesuit's next two possessions to keep South Medford at bay despite a driving layup by Winans.
"We just stayed focus and kept focusing on our defense because that's really all we can control," Nadelhoffer said of having Jesuit's lead cut to two points in the fourth quarter. "The shots might not be falling but as long as our defense is there we feel we can sustain every time."
C.J. Keepes, English and Robertson each led the way with four rebounds for South Medford, and Keepes added two assists to lead a Panther team that had averaged 17 assists in their two prior playoff games.
"It's disappointing because we've been pretty good lately offensively," said Murphy, who was 4-0 in the playoffs against Jesuit entering Thursday. "Three of the first four possessions we turned the ball over and that's not how we play. We'll just have to try to bounce back tomorrow."
Jack Nadelhoffer 3-10 2-2 10, Reid Bucy 2-8 4-4 8, Ryan Bay 1-3 3-7 5, Ryan McEvoy 2-4 1-2 5, Henry Mondeaux 1-3 3-3 5, Daniel Nelson 1-7 2-3 4, Jack Bell 1-2 0-0 3, Collin Landry 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 12-40 15-21 42.
SOUTH MEDFORD (20-7)
Brandon Robertson 3-6 2-2 9, Brayden Massey 2-9 3-6 8, Mark Winans 2-7 2-2 6, Cameron English 2-4 1-4 6, Ben Orndoff 1-4 2-2 4, Brandon Lupton 1-3 0-0 3, Tristian Lallo 0-0 0-0 0, Trenton Monical 0-0 0-0 0, CJ Keepes 0-1 0-0 0, Hunter Bradford 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 11-35 10-16 36.
Jesuit 14 10 8 10 — 42
South Medford 11 4 11 10 — 36
3-point goals—Jesuit 3-17 (Jack Nadelhoffer 2-7, Jack Bell 1-2, Ryan Bay 0-2, Ryan McEvoy 0-1, Daniel Nelson 0-1, Collin Landry 0-1, Reid Bucy 0-3), South Medford 4-15 (Brayden Massey 1-4, Cameron English 1-1, Brandon Robertson 1-2, Brandon Lupton 1-3, CJ Keepes 0-1, Mark Winans 0-4). Rebounds—Jesuit 33 (Reid Bucy 9), South Medford 25 (Cameron English 4, Brandon Robertson 4, CJ Keepes 4). Assists—Jesuit 5 (Reid Bucy 2), South Medford 5 (CJ Keepes 2). Total fouls—Jesuit 15, South Medford 20.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry