The North Medford girls basketball team entered Friday's contest against South Eugene winners of four straight games by an average margin of 23 points.

The North Medford girls basketball team entered Friday's contest against South Eugene winners of four straight games by an average margin of 23 points.

But the Black Tornado had to go wire-to-wire to pick up its fifth in a row. North overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to claim the 48-44 victory over the Axemen at North Medford High School.

"It was good for us," North coach Tim Karrick said. "We were in a position where we had to execute and get stops, make buckets and free throws, and we did. We needed a game that was close, that challenged us. I think we passed the test."

The victory gives North (13-3, 5-1 SWC) sole possession of first place through the first round of Southwest Conference play. South Eugene (10-6, 4-2) came in tied with North atop the standings and the two teams clawed back and forth down the stretch.

It was a pair of North seniors, Erica Schultz and Whitney Hodnett, providing the difference.

Schultz finished with 15 points, six rebounds, five steals and four blocks. Her baseline jumper with 5:20 to play in the fourth quarter gave the Tornado its first lead since the first basket of the game.

After Karissa Dixon's step-back jumper, Schultz stole the ball and went the length of the court for a layin, putting North in front 39-36 with 3:58 to play.

"She's one of the best players in the league and for us to be successful, she's got to step up in crunch time," Karrick said. "She did tonight and that's good for us."

South Eugene hit a pair of free throws on consecutive trips to retake the lead at 42-41 with two minutes to play, but Hodnett, playing through an illness, connected on a jumper in the key, which gave North the lead for good with 1:36 to play.

Another Schultz layin pushed the lead to three with under one minute left and North connected on 3 of 4 from the free-throw line, including two by Hodnett with 3.4 seconds to play, to ice the game. Hodnett had 13 points in the game.

"For a girl who threw up during the game, and threw up yesterday at practice, to come out and gut it up ... that's a stud right there," Karrick said. "That's a three-year starter that understands the importance of this game. I was really proud of her."

South Eugene managed a 28-18 lead at the half by taking advantage of North's aggressiveness and effectively using back-door cuts. Conversely, North was unable to take care of the ball, committing 12 turnovers.

North applied more ball pressure in the second half, and, despite turning the ball over on its first possession of the second half, committed just three turnovers in the third and fourth quarters.

North came alive late in the third quarter when senior Jana Parker made a jumper and was fouled to cut the deficit to seven. The Tornado's Andrea Egge was then fouled on a drive and South Eugene's Sarah Whitfield was hit with a technical foul for commenting to an official.

"I was pleased with how we regrouped and were poised after (the technical)," South Eugene coach Steve Eastburn said. "It's on the road, you are going to have to survive those bad stretches. Tonight we just didn't do the ultimate job of surviving those bad stretches, and they deserved to win. But we battled with them."

Egge connected on both free throws after the foul, Parker made both of the technical foul shots, and North entered the fourth quarter down just three. The Tornado outscored South Eugene 13-6 in the third quarter.

"That was definitely a turning point," Schultz said. "We looked up at the clock and realized we're still in this.

"It's a big momentum game. It just shows that we have the will-power to fight through."

Parker finished with 10 points for North, while Carmen Williams, one of just two seniors for South Eugene, had 10 points as did Sasha Teninty.

There's little time for the Tornado to celebrate this one. North heads to face South Medford today.

But, at least through the first half of conference play, there's plenty for North to be pleased about.

SOUTH EUGENE (44) — Roberts 9, Teninty 10, Whitfield 7, Barnes 4, Clark 4, Williams 10, Cook 0. Totals: 15 13-15 44.

NORTH MEDFORD (48) — Schultz 15, Satterfield 0, Dixon 2, Hodnett 13, Parker 10, Egge 4, Smith 2, Abeloe 2. Totals: 17 13-18 48.

South Eugene 17 11 6 10 —44

North Medford 11 7 13 17 —48

3-point goals — South Eugene 1 (Roberts 1), North Medford 1 (Schultz 1). Technical foul — Whitfield.

JV score — South Eugene 41, North Medford 30.

Reach sports reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail landrews@mailtribune.com