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Second-ranked Axemen school Tornado, 57-42

Though it probably didn't realize it before entering the gym Saturday afternoon, the North Medford Black Tornado was enrolled for a class in Basketball 101.

Armed with no books, pens or paper, North was overwhelmed, as the South Eugene Axemen instructed -- delivering a rousing two-hour hoops dissertation and a pop quiz. North supplied few answers in the non-conference boys contest as the second-ranked Axemen flunked the Tornado, 57-42.

The victory wrapped up South Eugene's whirlwind lecture circuit through Southern Oregon, outscoring both North and South Medford by a combined score of 141-90 in back-to-back games.

South Eugene beat South Medford 84-48 Friday.

They gave us a clinic in the first quarter, said first-year North coach Gene Quilhaugh after his first loss at the Black Tornado's helm.

Our first two games were junkyard-dog basketball. We haven't seen that kind of overall quickness this year.

South Eugene's defensive quickness played a critical role in the fateful first quarter, as the Axemen harassed North into missing its first 12 shots. The Tornado (1-3) wound up 1-of-18 in the period as South Eugene took a commanding 18-3 lead.

Our defense was the key today, said South Eugene coach Dean Stepp, whose team improved to 4-0. They struggled against our matchup zone defense, which really slowed the game down.

The Axemen, who had a sizable height advantage at nearly every position on the floor, normally play an up-tempo brand of basketball. But on Saturday, they slowed down, sucked the air out of the ball and the life out of North's offense.

It wasn't a very well-played game, said Stepp. This team (North) plays differently than anything we've seen this year, so we slowed things down.

The zone defense -- with 6-foot-8 center Mike Roberts, 6-6 post Cogan McCarthy and 6-4 point guard Blake Stepp -- forced North to rely almost solely on perimeter shots.

We just hesitated getting the ball inside because we respected Roberts too much, said Quilhaugh.

Roberts, who scored 14 points, has already signed a letter of intent to play his college ball with Bobby Knight at Indiana.

We just didn't utilize the open man very well, Quilhaugh admitted.

Roberts, McCarthy and Stepp held Black Tornado point guard Jeff Zimmer to seven points on 3-of-17 shooting and post Travis Hinkle to two points on 1-of-11 shooting.

We knew their guys weren't shooting that well, so we just packed it in, said Blake Stepp, the coach's son who scored a game-high 17 points. We could see they were getting frustrated.

Senior wing Wes Towne's efforts and South Eugene's seven first-half turnovers helped North stave off the impending blowout. Towne scored 10 first-half points, including two 3-pointers, to keep the score respectable at the half, 37-22.

Wes kept us from getting blown out, said Quilhaugh. He kept us fairly close.

The Axemen starters erased any doubt of a North second-half comeback by extending the lead to 50-30 at the end of the third period behind a transition game that was run to near perfection by Stepp, who is entertaining scholarship offers from among others, six Pac-10 Conference schools.

They move very well, Quilhaugh said. They don't appear quick, but they get by everyone.

The Black Tornado reserves won the battle in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Axemen 14-7 to narrow the final margin.

Even with the loss, Quilhaugh still likes what he sees in his team.

I'm really pleased with this team, said Quilhaugh. We need to have Zimmer and Hinkle shooting at a better percentage -- and they will. But the important thing is we're 0-0 in league play, and that's what matters.

SOUTH EUGENE (57) -- Shockley 0, Long 6, Stepp 17, Mold 4, Bunkingham 0, White 4, Pelphrey 3, Roberts 14, Ritchie 2, McCarthy 6, Scarola 1. Totals: 24-42 11-16 57.

NORTH MEDFORD (42) -- Pickrel 5, Oliver 0, Mellbye 2, McNeil 2, Zimmer 7, Towne 15, Husel 4, Brownell 0, O'Brien 2, Hinkle 2, Schlief 3, Jantzer 0. Totals: 18-65 1-2 42.

South Eugene ...............18 19 13 7 -- 57 North Medford .................3 19 6 14 -- 42

3-point goals -- North Medford 5 (Towne 3, Zimmer 1, Pickrel 1). Fouled out -- none.

JV game -- North won.