North Medford’s boys basketball team wiped the slate clean Friday night in every sense of the term.
Coming off a lackluster performance in a 55-50 loss at Grants Pass on Tuesday, the Black Tornado regrouped with better practices leading up to Friday’s Southwest Conference matchup with South Eugene — and a new pregame directive.
Gone was the usual verbiage on the whiteboard in the North Medford locker room, and in its place was simply “Black Tornado” and in the No. 1 spot below were the words “great defense.”
Head coach Scott Plankenhorn’s ensuing reminders were to also run in transition and share the ball.
After Friday’s 65-43 runaway win over the visiting Axemen, each one of those items had to have a giant check mark as North Medford opened a 15-3 lead through one quarter and was never challenged.
“I thought we played as close to Black Tornado basketball as we could,” said Plankenhorn, whose team moved to 18-3 overall and 7-2 in SWC play. “We weren’t perfect but we were really close to how we like to play basketball.”
Leading that charge as usual was senior wing Kaison Faust, but not in typical fashion. Faust flirted with his first-ever triple-double by amassing 17 points, eight rebounds and a career-high nine assists to keep North Medford atop the SWC standings.
“He’s a hard guy to guard; he’s truly special,” said Plankenhorn. “He makes that extra pass all the time. You’ve got to make that play and trust your teammate and he’s willing to do it.”
Senior Quinton Rumrey was the biggest beneficiary of South Eugene’s focus on Faust, with the 5-foot-8 shooting guard knocking down four of North Medford’s 11 3-pointers. Rumrey finished with 16 points, and the Black Tornado was 11-for-17 overall from 3-point range.
Oscar Banuelos added five rebounds and 11 points — seven in the first minute of the second half — for North, and Jake O’Connor had five boards and eight points, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close the third quarter with the Black Tornado ahead 50-30.
“I have all the confidence in my teammates to score,” said Faust. “I just trust them and know that if I’m in the air, I’ve still got ‘Q’ or Oscar out there for me and I just trust them every time.”
As impressive of a shooting night as it was for North Medford (24-for-47 overall), the real path to victory started on the defensive end, where the Black Tornado limited South Eugene to 17-for-40 shooting. The Axemen’s leading scorer, Jay Elmore, was held well below his season scoring average of 22.7 points per game with only eight — three coming in the second half.
“They played really, really well,” South Eugene head coach Dave Hancock said of the Black Tornado. “They stuck to their game plan and doubled Jay everywhere and we didn’t respond very well. We had some layups that could’ve kept us in the game that we missed where we just got really gunshy.”
Rumrey drew the lion’s share of the assignment to trail Elmore in the first half, with Faust stepping in to help in the second half.
“I thought ‘Q’ did a great job early,” said Plankenhorn. “He was just really engaged on not letting (Elmore) get the ball anywhere he wanted it, and then we just did a good job of doubling off the ball screens and making sure there weren’t any holes and we weren’t leaving anybody at the hoop.”
Added Faust: “When you shut down their best scorer, that really makes a difference.”
“That was probably one of the hardest jobs for me,” added the 6-2 standout. “I played with Jay over the summer and he just knows how to get his shot, running off ball screens and everything so it was a lot of work tonight.”
Sam Harris had nine points and Will Graves added seven to support Elmore for the Axemen, who have now lost four of their last five games.
SOUTH EUGENE (43): Harris 9, Elmore 8, Graves 7, McAninch 5, Berryman 5, Clark 2, Mitchell 2, Boettcher 2, Joyce 2, Lininger 1, Leonard 0, Soifer 0. Totals: 17-40 6-10 43.
NORTH MEDFORD (65): Faust 17, Rumrey 16, Banuelos 11, O’Connor 8, Thomas 5, Wells 3, Parker 3, Spence 2, Sandoval 0. Totals: 24-47 6-8 65.
3-point goals — South Eugene 3-15 (Berryman 1, Harris 1, Elmore 1), North Medford 11-17 (Rumrey 4, O’Connor 2, Banuelos 1, Wells 1, Thomas 1, Parker 1, Faust 1).
— Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry.