When you’re on a winning team, it’s easy to maintain your competitive spirit.
Practices become more tolerable, gearing up for...
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PORTLAND — South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy kissed point guard Brayden Massey on the cheek, burst through the locker room door with a scream and treated the nearby walls like a bongo.
So, yeah, you could say Friday's venture into the Class 6A boys basketball consolation semifinals was a good one for the Panthers.
South Medford shrugged off a one-point halftime deficit to Central Catholic and thoroughly dominated the final 16 minutes to secure its first win at the Moda Center since the tournament moved from Eugene, 71-60.
"I'll go to my grave winning a game in the Moda Center, thank you," Murphy bellowed outside the Panthers' locker room.
The victory snapped an eight-game losing streak at the state tournament dating back to 2009, when the Panthers last earned a trophy by placing sixth in E.J. Singler's senior season.
South Medford (21-7) will vie for another trophy at 10:45 this morning when it plays Sunset in the fourth-place final. The Apollos (20-7) beat Clackamas 60-55 and will be the fourth Metro League team to face the Panthers in these playoffs.
Junior point guard Brayden Massey spearheaded the victory with 23 points to go with five rebounds, three steals and two assists. Sophomore Hunter Bradford added 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots, senior Mark Winans had 10 points, nine assists and seven rebounds and senior Ben Orndoff had nine points and four rebounds to help the cause.
"It feels so amazing to get a win up here," said Massey. "It just emotionally got to me, too. I can't even explain it, but it's a really good feeling to get the first win here."
Unlike a day prior, when the Panthers played tentatively in the quarterfinals against Jesuit, they came out aggressively and used an 11-2 surge to take a 17-13 advantage into the second quarter against the Rams (17-11).
A 3-pointer by Orndoff ballooned that advantage to 20-13 in the second, but after that, Central Catholic dialed up its defensive pressure and began to force 10 of South Medford's 14 first-half turnovers. With that, the Rams were able to enter halftime up 29-28.
Faced with a stern challenge by Murphy to come out and compete in the second half, the Panthers did just that to completely turn the tide against the Rams. South Medford went on a 6-2 run to open the third quarter and grabbed a 38-31 advantage behind six points from Winans and two apiece by Massey and Cameron English.
"Mark came out in the second half and really gave us a spark," said Murphy. "It got back to South Medford basketball. We're just a bunch of guys that if we share the ball and play hard, we're a good basketball team "» and that's what we did today."
South Medford totaled 11 of its 18 assists in the second half, going 14-for-18 from the field to finish a blistering 65 percent (26-for-40). The Panthers also limited their turnovers to nine in the final 16 minutes and got a pair of key 3-point plays from senior Brandon Robertson.
Conversely, Central Catholic was limited to 13-for-33 shooting in the second half and 24-for-64 for the game (38 percent) and had six turnovers in each half.
"The second half was pretty simple: They played harder than we did and they wanted it more than we did," said Rams head coach Dan Munson. "We made plays at times and at other times we did not. We fouled sometimes defensively, we played great sometimes defensively. We're a bunch of young guys that are up and down, and South Medford played more consistent and they played harder than us."
That trait was exemplified most by Massey and Bradford, who were relentless in their pursuit of a victory on Friday. The Panther duo came up big time after time, adding key plays that don't wind up in the scorebook to keep the Rams from getting the best of their team.
"Brayden is such a tough guy and just a tremendous competitor," said Murphy. "I can't say enough about what he did out there."
"Hunter has come in and just done a great job of accepting his role and, boy, anytime you call his number he's ready to play," added the coach. "He was just huge today. Anything around the basket he got his hands on he got, and that's just a toughness thing."
For his part, Massey said he was willing to do anything Friday morning to have a chance to play a third day in Portland.
"I just wanted to come out and get the win," said Massey, who was 8-for-11 from the field. "We came up here and were (0-7 at the Moda Center) and I just came out here mentally focused knowing that they're going to be hitting me and I needed to score and do whatever I needed to do to win the game."
That "whatever it takes" approach also went beyond the court for the Panthers. For the players to get their uniforms for the game, assistant coach Kirk Daley had them submit to a seven-second cold shower to test their mettle. Massey and Bradford were the first to jump at the chance, and the others followed.
"I'm pretty sure it's because we all took cold showers before the game," Massey said of his team's turnaround in 24 hours. "We all had to take a seven-second cold shower to get our uniform to play, and I think that got us going."
Whatever it took, Murphy was more than pleased with the end result against a Central Catholic squad that pushed defending champion West Linn to its limits on Thursday.
"I really believe that's the best team we've played in this game in four years, and for us to win a game like that, that's huge," said Murphy. "Our seniors said all along they were going to come up here and win a game, and I'm a guy that's big on your word and is your word worth anything. It feels good and I'm awfully proud of them as always."
CENTRAL CATHOLIC (17-11)
Deante Strickland 6-16 3-5 16, Ben College 4-6 0-0 11, Patrick Myers 5-12 0-0 10, Cameron Scarlett 3-4 1-1 8, Ryan Nall 2-2 1-4 5, Xavier Hallinan 2-9 0-0 4, Blake Brandel 1-2 1-2 3, La'Mar Winston 1-11 1-2 3, JJ Wells 0-0 0-0 0, Simon Stringer 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Rose 0-1 0-0 0, Trent Warren 0-1 0-0 0, Cole Stringer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 24-64 7-14 60.
SOUTH MEDFORD (21-7)
Brayden Massey 8-11 6-6 23, Hunter Bradford 6-6 4-5 16, Mark Winans 3-7 4-6 10, Ben Orndoff 4-7 0-1 9, Brandon Robertson 2-2 2-2 6, Trenton Monical 2-2 1-1 5, Cameron English 1-1 0-0 2, Tristian Lallo 0-0 0-0 0, Josh Washington 0-1 0-0 0, CJ Keepes 0-2 0-0 0, Craig Contreras 0-0 0-0 0, Brandon Lupton 0-1 0-0 0, Eskari Carter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-40 17-21 71.
Central Catholic 13 16 11 20 — 60
South Medford 17 11 21 22 — 71
3-point goals — Central Catholic 5-16 (Ben College 3-4, Cameron Scarlett 1-1, Deante Strickland 1-7, Xavier Hallinan 0-1, La'Mar Winston 0-3), South Medford 2-6 (Brayden Massey 1-1, Ben Orndoff 1-2, Mark Winans 0-2, Brandon Lupton 0-1). Fouled out — Ryan Nall. Rebounds — Central Catholic 24 (Blake Brandel 4), South Medford 35 (Mark Winans 7). Assists — Central Catholic 13 (Xavier Hallinan 6), South Medford 18 (Mark Winans 9). Total fouls — Central Catholic 19, South Medford 17.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry