The North Medford girls basketball team will see many similarities tonight when it hosts Canby in a first-round Class 6A state-playoff game.

The North Medford girls basketball team will see many similarities tonight when it hosts Canby in a first-round Class 6A state-playoff game.

The Cougars like to press and they have a strong post presence, a la the Black Tornado.

Those attributes would give many teams fits. Just ask North Medford coach Tim Karrick.

"I'm worried I'm not going to be sleeping much tonight," Karrick said with a laugh on Tuesday. "Canby's a very good basketball team."

Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Black Tornado gym.

In other games involving local teams in the postseason this week, St. Mary's opens the Class 2A girls state tournament today in Pendleton with a 6:30 p.m. game against Kennedy, while Cascade Christian begins the 3A boys state tournament at Willamette University in Salem against Harrisburg on Thursday.

St. Mary's (21-4), the Southern Cascade League champions, took out De La Salle of Portland on Friday, 39-29, to clinch a berth in the girls tournament.

Third-ranked Cascade Christian (26-2) edged past Sheridan, 52-44, on Saturday in a state-playoff contest.

Southern Sky Conference champion Ashland welcomes West Albany on Friday at 7 p.m. in a 5A girls state-playoff game, while Crater, the No. 2 seed from the SSC, travels to take on Marshall at 6 p.m. on Friday.

Seventh-ranked North Medford (20-5) enters tonight's contest fresh off winning the Southwest Conference title, its first-ever outright league championship.

Against Canby, a team the Tornado defeated 55-44 on Dec. 28 in the Lake Oswego Interstate Shootout tournament, North Medford must be prepared to protect the basketball amidst the Cougar pressure, said Karrick.

"They play very good pressure defense," Karrick said, "and they're very athletic. We're going to have to take care of the ball. If we don't, it could be a very long night for us."

The Cougars (15-9) battled inconsistency during the regular season, never winning more than three straight games, and ended the season with a 78-71 loss to Tigard in triple overtime.

In that defeat, 6-foot post Julianne Erbe scored 30 points to keep Canby in the game.

Karrick expects to see plenty more of Erbe tonight.

"She's one of the most polished post players in the state," said Karrick. "If she gets the ball down low she's really efficient at putting the ball in the bucket."

Karrick also expects Canby to look towards Jamie Jo McGraw and Katie Martin offensively to aid Erbe.

The Black Tornado, meanwhile, will lean on senior 5-11 post Erica Schultz, who is averaging 15 points, 7.5 rebounds, four steals and 2.5 blocks per game.

The athletic Schultz must get help offensively, Karrick said, from seniors Jana Parker and Whitney Hodnett and sophomore point guard Karissa Dixon.

"We need those girls to be scorers, too," said Karrick. "I think sometimes we rely on watching Erica put on her show too much. I'm hoping we'll be a little more balanced."

"They're a third seed and a very good third seed," Karrick added. "But it's the playoffs and you have to play teams like this. We've earned the right to have them at our place, so hopefully we take that to heart."

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4483, or e-mail kgoff@mailtribune.com