North repels KU arsenal
North Medford's Tom Wooton drives the baseline against KU's Mark Chocktoot.
Mark Chocktoot rained 3-pointers like smart bombs on North Medford Friday night.
His twisting layins hit like torpedoes below the water line.
Yet, with the Black Tornado's playoff hopes on the bubble, the slender Klamath Union senior couldn't launch one last missile as North survived for a 49-46 Southern Oregon Conference boys basketball victory.
Coupled with Eagle Point's 57-51 win over Grants Pass, the triumph secured North (15-8, 10-6 SOC) no worse than fourth place in the SOC and a spot in the Class 4A state playoffs.
Klamath Union (16-6, 10-5 SOC) dropped into a second-place tie with idle Roseburg.
This was a playoff-type game, North coach Terry Gregg said. Down the stretch you need it. We're to the point where, ultimately, if you win you move on. If you lose, you're through for the year.
North's prospects were still in the balance when Kacy Carter's free throw with 15 seconds left boosted the Tornado lead -- that had shriveled from 12 points to one -- back to three.
Chocktoot, who had sometimes willed the Pelicans to victory as they won six out of seven games, tried to do so again.
The 6-foot-2 senior scored 13 of his 20 points in the final 4:07. But try as he might, Chocktoot couldn't find an opening the final trip down the floor with his team trailing by three.
Tom Wooton had the chore of guarding Chocktoot most of the night and fared reasonably well.
Both teams were going for playoff spots, said North Medford's Travis Hinkle. We had to help out as much as we could and play good strong defense at the end.
Chocktoot probed the left side without luck. He jostled around the top of the key, looking for a screen. He looked for an open teammate. Finally, he tried the right side. Wooton wouldn't give and then Carter doubled up. Unable to see the basket or a teammate,
Chocktoot tried to split the defenders. They didn't give, he pitched forward, the ball came loose and North headed up the floor as time expired.
I was thinking about a — or looking for the open man, but I don't think my teammates were thinking what I was, Chocktoot said. I was the only shooter out there after (Todd) Yee fouled out, or else we would've had another threat.
Yee's 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer pulled Klamath to within 23-18. The 5-8 senior hit another trey from the left corner to start an 8-0 surge that cut North's 40-28 advantage to 40-36 when Chocktoot pierced the lane for a bucket with 2:30 to play.
A lot of Klamath teams would've folded, Klamath coach Barry Gottula said, but that's not the nature of this ballclub.
The Tornado didn't score from the field after Jeff Zimmer's putback with 6:02 to play. But North kept the Pelicans at bay by hitting 9 of 13 free throws in the final 2:16.
This was a different road to go in order to get into the playoffs, Gregg said. We've been in a lot of close games and tonight the ball bounced in the right direction. We played solid defense and this was our time.
Gottula pointed to the Tornado's decisive rebounding advantage as his team's downfall.
The Tornado won the rebounding battle, 34-25, with Travis Hinkle grabbing eight rebounds.
Gottula thought the margin was larger, he said, and part of that is because Kyle (Johnson) got into foul trouble early. You can trace most of our league losses to when he's had foul problems.
KLAMATH UNION (46) -- Yee 8, Chocktoot 20, Bennett 7, Bailey 0, Tucker 1, Johnson 4, Hedlund 6, Woodrum 0. Totals: 17-45 6-12 46.
NORTH MEDFORD (49) -- Foreman 4, Zimmer 13, Wooton 2, Fowler 6, Hinkle 15, Carter 7, Randall 2. Totals: 14-41 16-21 49.
Klamath Union 9 9 10 18 -- 46
North Medford 7 16 8 18 -- 49
3-point goals -- Klamath Union 6-21: (Yee 2, Chocktoot 3, Johnson 1). North Medford 5-9: (Foreman 1, Zimmer 3, Hinkle 1). Fouled out -- Yee, Johnson.
JV score: North Medford 55, Klamath Union 44.