When you host a basketball tournament, it's always the hope that at least one local team advances to the championship game.

When you host a basketball tournament, it's always the hope that at least one local team advances to the championship game.

That wasn't the case in last year's Abby's Holiday Classic, but the boys basketball teams at North Medford and South Medford high schools appear primed to not let that happen again when the 21st edition of the tourney begins today at those respective high schools.

The Black Tornado (6-0) enters tonight's opener against Sprague, set for a 7:30 tipoff, with its undefeated record accomplished in six road games. North Medford is coming off a championship effort in the Lakeside Holiday Classic in Lake Oswego.

"It'll be nice to finally get in our home gym and see what we can do," says North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn. "It'll be an interesting matchup (with Sprague) because they've been scoring a lot of points. It's definitely going to be a tough contest."

Across town, South Medford (6-1) has gotten off to a hot start as well and is coming off a championship at the Red Bluff (Calif.) Holiday Classic. The Panthers won the event for the fourth time in the past six years.

South Medford plays host to Beaverton (2-4) at 7:30 tonight.

In today's other openers, Redmond (4-2) faces South Eugene (2-3) at 6 p.m. at North Medford High, while Red Bluff takes on West Salem (3-4) at 6 p.m. at South Medford High.

Tournament action continues through Thursday, with all remaining games at South Medford High.

Last year marked only the third time in tournament history that a Medford team didn't play for the championship. Out of area teams played for the title in 2005 and '06, although South Medford was not in the field during that span after accepting invitations to play in the Les Schwab Invitational. The Panthers made their return to the Abby's Holiday Classic after a four-year hiatus last season, only to fall prey to North Medford in the third-place game.

In Sprague, North Medford faces a squad that has twice eclipsed 70 points and boasts a balanced attack led by seniors Greg Ellis (6-foot-3 post), Kyle McNally (6- 6 post) and Dillon Triance (6-0 wing) and 6-4 sophomore point guard A.J. Lapray. Junior wing Ben Foote (6-3) has also been a key contributor for the Olympians, who are coming off a double-overtime loss to Redmond in its holiday tournament.

The Black Tornado has been equally balanced, with a new leading scorer in its first five games and a game plan that seemingly utilizes the entire roster. Senior guard Jared Knox (6-4) sets the tone with his all-around play on offense and defense, while 6-3 junior Jordan Browne-Moore is responsible for holding down the interior as North's top post player.

Junior point guard Derek Mautz is coming off a 5-for-6 showing from 3-point range, while 6-2 senior wing Michael Osmanski and 6-2 junior wing Chris Faust have been instrumental in the team's fast start. The Tornado is potent off the bench with the likes of seniors Marcus Ellis and Jarrett Artale and junior Trey Garfas.

"We're just playing really hard and staying together," says Plankenhorn. "It's just been a great team effort."

Beaverton is led by 5-9 junior guard Ershad Mahmood, who is averaging about 15 points with a high of 20 in a 55-48 win at Wilson. The junior-dominated squad also leans heavily on 6-2 guards Tyler Cady and 5-10 guard Randy Salsedo.

South Medford expects to counter with its own perimeter attack in senior guards Josh Havird (6-3) and Mike Brassel (5-9), with seniors Tevyn Mercer (6-4) and Kevin Thibeault (6-2) providing a steady complement on the interior.

Havird and Thibeault were each recognized for their spirited play in Red Bluff with spots on the tournament's all-attitude team. The Panthers have potent options off the bench, led by seniors Nick Shanklin-Rice and Austin Voss.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry