Full of confidence and poise, Crater jumped out to a 21-14 lead on South Medford and seemed to be on pace for one of its best showings of the season Tuesday night in boys basketball in the Panthers' gymnasium.

Full of confidence and poise, Crater jumped out to a 21-14 lead on South Medford and seemed to be on pace for one of its best showings of the season Tuesday night in boys basketball in the Panthers' gymnasium.

Unfortunately for the Comets, South Medford simply would not let that happen in a game that saw the Panthers answer with a 10-2 second-quarter surge to gain momentum and play almost flawlessly in the fourth quarter to win going away, 70-57.

Defensive play by the Panthers proved to be Crater's undoing, with senior guard Matt Retzlaff notching six steals and junior guard Adrian Garcia swiping eight more in his first varsity start to spark South's comeback.

"It was good guard play by those two guys out there," said South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy. "They're both quick and athletic and keep pressure on people and it makes it harder for people to get into their offense."

Retzlaff was especially complimentary of Garcia, who found out during pregame warmups that he would gain the starting nod when senior Jeff Sarsona couldn't go due to an ankle sprain suffered Monday night. Garcia added seven assists, four points and three rebounds.

"Adrian filled in that spot and he did really well," said Retzlaff, a co-captain. "He came out to play tonight and came ready and that's just the huge preparation factor in what we do in practice."

Jack Singler scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter — when South was 7-for-8 from the field and 8-for-9 from the foul line — while Retzlaff had 18 points and six assists and Jack Delaney 16 points, six rebounds and four assists.

The Panthers earned their eighth straight win to improve to 15-2 overall and 6-0 in Southern Oregon Hybrid play, while Crater dropped to 6-10 and 1-5.

"We're too good to be losing close games like we have been, I'm sorry," said Crater head coach John Parent. "These kids are too good to be 6-10 right now."

Justin Martin battled foul trouble but still managed 15 points to pace the Comets, while Cody Dismukes had 14 points and six rebounds and Tanner Jaasko scored all 10 of his points in the first half.

A pair of free throws capped off a string of six straight points by Retzlaff and gave the Panthers their first lead at 24-23 with 3:39 to go in the first half. The teams exchanged buckets for the rest of the half until Garcia found Singler in the corner for a 3-pointer with two seconds to play that allowed South to take a 34-31 lead into halftime. The Panthers had been 0-for-8 from 3-point range prior to that basket.

Justin Martin's 3-pointer to open the second half brought the score back to even, but Delaney rattled home a shot beyond the arc seconds later and South never relinquished the lead from there. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Retzlaff built the Panther cushion to 47-36 with 2:50 to go in the third against a Comet team that was listless coming out of halftime.

"I don't understand how in the world kids can come out flat against the team that you want to beat more than anybody in the world," said Parent. "That makes no sense to me. I'll go to my grave before I ever figure that one out."

South maintained an eight-point cushion early in the fourth quarter as the teams traded baskets but eventually went up by as many as 17 points thanks to efficient play on offense.

"They played hard and played tough, especially in the first half," Murphy said of the Comets, "we just made some more plays down at the end that we needed to."

Sam Curtius and Jesse Mondry each had six points for the Panthers, while Jordan Douglas came off the bench to net eight points with three rebounds and three assists for the Comets.

Evan Erskine also had four assists for Crater, which was 25-for-45 from the field but only 2-for-7 from the foul line. South Medford made 17 of 20 free throws and was 24-for-50 from the field.

CRATER (57) — J. Martin 15, Dismukes 14, Jaasko 10, Douglas 8, Marineau 4, Morgan 2, Erskine 2, Bennett 2, Rodman 0, A. Martin 0, Lane 0, Orosco 0. Totals: 25-45 2-7 57.

SOUTH MEDFORD (70) — Singler 19, Retzlaff 18, Delaney 16, Curtius 6, Mondry 6, Garcia 4, McCoy 1, Davis 0, Johnson 0. Totals: 24-50 17-20 70.

Crater 14 17 9 17 — 57

South Medford 8 26 13 23 — 70

3-point goals — Crater 5-14 (J. Martin 3, Jaasko 2), South Medford 5-15 (Singler 2, Retzlaff 2, Delaney 1).

JV score — South Medford 52, Crater 40.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry