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It's finally tourney time for Black Tornado

A mob of North Medford players frolics on the floor after the victory that sent the Tornado to the state tournament for the first time.

It's been a long time coming.

The Oregon School Activities Association first staged girls state basketball tournaments in 1976. The Black Tornado had never been to one -- until now.

That made North Medford's 51-41 third-round Class 4A playoff victory over visiting South Salem that much sweeter Saturday night.

Sweet for a group of players that sweated out the highs and lows.

Sweet for coach Mike Kay, who made six tournament trips in nine seasons at Mazama before taking the Tornado job two years ago.

Sweet for the program that has always been on the outside looking in at tournament time.

We'd never made it to the state tournament before; it's something we all wanted to do, said junior guard Lu Crenshaw, who came off the bench to jump-start North's offense midway through the first half and led the Tornado with 14 points.

This is a great reward and a great birthday present, said North Medford center Ericka Brosterhous, who turns 19 today.

The triumph propels the sixth-ranked Black Tornado (22-3) into an 8:45 p.m. Tuesday meeting against four-time defending state champion Oregon City (20-4) at Portland's Chiles Center.

We came into this season with expectations and 21-4 would've not been a good season for us, said Kay, alluding to where a loss to the Saxons (18-8) would've left the Tornado.

When there is a rise in expectations, there's a chance of failure that comes with it. I don't think we would've been satisfied if our season would've ended tonight.

Just as North fought to the bitter end in a third-round loss at South Salem in 1996, the Valley League's No. — team gave the Tornado a fitting dry run for the tournament.

The biggest part was keeping our concentration, said North point guard Dolinda Meeker. They play really physical and we got pushed around. But we still had to play like we know we can play.

It was a night when North needed Oscar performances from many of its role players.

Brosterhous, the SOC's No. 2 scorer at 15.0 per game, spent much of the first half on the bench with two fouls. Then she found herself sitting once again when she picked up her fourth foul with 1:41 left in the third quarter. Sophomore Tressa Manwaring helped hold South Salem's 6-1 senior center Lisa Narkiewicz -- who had 15 points through three quarters -- scoreless in the fourth.

Ashlee Giles kept Saxon point guard Tati Gallardo under the gun defensively. Giles limited Gallardo to seven points (three coming with a minute to play), had four steals, led the team with seven rebounds, dished out four assists and blocked a shot.

After South Salem junior forward Jenny McGillivray scored 10 points in the first half, North senior post Jenny Jackson limited her to two the rest of the way.

Crenshaw rarely winds up in double figures, but picked a good time to go off.

The 5-foot-4 junior drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give North the lead for good with 5:07 left in the second quarter. The Tornado led 30-24 at the half, but couldn't shake the Saxons.

Manwaring's lay-in gave North a 37-27 lead. But South Salem's 6-1 senior post Lisa Narkiewicz went to work and scored the next five points to trim South's deficit to 37-32 after Brosterhous drew her fourth foul.

The Saxons outrebounded the Tornado 41-29 on the night, but Crenshaw came up with a huge rebound when she grabbed her own 3-point miss and tossed it back in for a score from 17 feet as the buzzer went off to give North a 41-34 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

We had three turnovers right before that and we were still down just five, South Salem coach Mike Stortz said. Then we don't block out and she gets the shot and we're down seven.

South Salem edged to within 41-36 when Meeker produced back-to-back steals -- feeding Crenshaw for one basket and then scoring herself to push the lead to 45-36.

Some of the things Dolinda did down the stretch were huge, said Kay. After we milked three or four minutes off the clock, we forced them into a sense of urgency and they started shooting from the outside instead of going inside.

When it was over, the Tornado collapsed in a heap at mid-court.

It was quite a celebration. One long awaited.

SOUTH SALEM (41) -- Hildebrandt 0, Comstock 2, Quanbeck 0, Stinnett 0, Luukinen 0, Gallardo 7, Roselle 0, Narkiewicz 15, Lyman 5, Matson 0, McGillivray 12. Totals: 13-34 14-18 41.

NORTH MEDFORD (51) -- Close 3, Crenshaw 14, Meeker 13, Harvey 0, Dickerson 2, Giles 4, Manwaring 5, Brosterhous 9, Ledford 0, Jackson 1. Totals: 20-46 7-20 51.

South Salem 10 14 10 7 -- 41

North Medford 15 15 11 10 -- 51

3-point goals -- South Salem — (Gallardo 1). North Medford 2 (Crenshaw 2). Rebounds -- South Salem 41 (Narkiewicz 14), North Medford 29 (Giles 7). Turnovers -- South Salem 18, North Medford 9.

Class 4A Girls

Girls Subtournament

Saturday's Results

North Medford 51, South Salem 41

Lakeridge 60, Silverton 35

Wilson 57, La Grande 45

Clackamas 73, Pendleton 65

Springfield 58, Lake Oswego 50

North Eugene 68, Gresham 53

Jesuit 39, West Albany 34

Tuesday's State Tournament Games

At the Chiles Center

Jesuit vs. Jefferson, 1:30 p.m.

Springfield vs. Hermiston, — p.m.

North Eugene vs. Tualatin. 7 p.m.

North Medford vs. Oregon City, 8:45 p.m.

Wednesday's State Tournament Games

At the Chiles Center

Lakeridge vs. Crescent Valley, 1:30 p.m.

Wilson vs. South Eugene, — p.m.

Centennial vs. Crater, 7 p.m.

Clackamas vs. Westview, 8:45 p.m.

It's finally tourney time for Black Tornado