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Lethargic Panthers turn back Pels, 64-48

A night after senior forward Adam Decker gunned in one of the biggest shots in South Medford High boys basketball history, the air came out of the Panthers like a flat tire on Saturday.

But on their home floor, and matched against one of the top state playoff contenders out of the Southern Oregon Conference, it didn't really matter if the Panthers had left their hearts -- and emotions -- in Grants Pass the night before after a 84-81 double-overtime win over the Cavemen.

With Decker's 23-foot game-winning bomb at Grants Pass still on their minds, the Panthers spotted Klamath Union an early 5-0 lead Saturday night, then exploded on a 15-2 first-quarter run, and rolled to a 64-48 victory.

Decker, who broke the hearts of Grants Pass fans with his big shot, managed just five points against the Pelicans. But they all came during South's 15-2 spurt in the opening quarter.

After that, the Panthers didn't need big-game Adam to score. They used a game-high 18 points from point guard James Wightman, and 11 from senior wing Travis DeManby to lead them to their 10th straight Southern Oregon Conference win without a loss.

South leads the SOC by two games after pushing two playoff contenders (Grants Pass and Klamath Union) one more game behind them.

It was a good weekend for us, said South Medford coach Dennis Murphy, who has the Panthers clawing closer and closer to their third straight SOC title and another berth in the Class 4A state tournament March 10-15 at Portland. We had to work some overtime to get them, but it's real big and I'm happy.

Murphy admitted the Panthers were emotionally drained after the win over Grants Pass. But he hoped they would muster a better performance against the Pelicans.

Our kids haven't been in a situation where they've had to play so hard to get a win the night before and come back and get ready to play another tough opponent the next night, said Murphy. We weren't very good tonight.

But plenty good enough to run their season record to 15-2 and to tighten their grip on the Southern Oregon Conference lead.

Decker hit just one of nine shots from the floor. But after nailing the big one in double-overtime at Grants Pass, he was still giddy and accepting congratulations from his teammates before and after Saturday's game.

I didn't sleep very well last night, said Decker. I went to bed fairly early, but I couldn't get to sleep. All I could think about and see in my mind was that shot.

It's the biggest shot I've made. I felt good when I let it go.

DeManby, who was ready to rebound if Decker missed, admitted he pulled off the block and raised his hands into the air, signaling a three-point shot, before the ball reached the basket.

I could tell it was in, said DeManby. I had just the right angle. And I trust Deck when he's shooting.

Wightman dished Decker the ball prior to the game-winner. Why not give it to him? He's one of the best pure shooters in the state, said Wightman. He was going to make it.

Murphy said the win over Grants Pass ranks among his top five victories as South Medford's head coach.

It was like two boxers trying to survive at the end of a fight, said Murphy. Anybody who had the energy to get a little spurt had the advantage.

Adam takes a good shot, but a tough one, said Murphy. But we could have easily gone to a third overtime. I don't know what would have happened then.

Wightman had seven assists and four rebounds to go with his 18 points against Klamath Union.

We played in spurts again tonight, he said. We have to get over that. We need a solid 32-minute game. When we get to the state tournament, that won't work.

But beating Grants Pass like that was a big game for us, said Wightman. It felt like a state tournament game. It's a confidence-builder.

Kyle Johnson led Klamath Union with 13 points and guard Mark Chocktoot added 10.

KLAMATH UNION (48) -- Yee 3, Axberg 0, Davison 2, Chocktoot 10, Bennett 1, Bailey 4, Tucker 7, Woodrum 0 , Johnson 13, Hedlund 8.

SOUTH MEDFORD (64) -- Wightman 18, Ritchie 7, Hilgendorf 4, Schilz 7, DeManby 11, Melin 0, Okon 5, Decker 5, Spangler 1, Foster 6.

Klamath Union 10 7 16 15 -- 48

South Medford 15 13 23 13 -- 64

3-point field goals -- South Medford: Wightman 3, Okon 1. Klamath Union: Tucker 2, Chocktoot 1, Bailey 1.