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South expected to rise again in SOC boy hoops

When given a second chance, you have to take full advantage of the opportunity.

After sweeping the Southern Oregon Conference with a 16-0 record in 1997-98, the South Medford boys basketball program had the wheels fall off last season with a 5-9 league mark.

With eight returning lettermen, the Panthers appear determined to make up for lost ground.

It's all about respect and earning respect, says South Medford coach Dennis Murphy. I don't think we had a lot last year, and I don't think we deserved it because we didn't play at the level our program has been. We need to come out and re-establish ourselves.

Helping the Panthers restore their roar is a bevy of players who have varsity experience under their belt. Seniors Steve Hilgendorf, Nick Decker, Ethan Wallenberg, Damian Rasmussen and Colin Grant each earned starting spots last season for South, along with junior John McKay.

This is their last shot and they want to make the most of it, especially after what happened last year, Murphy says of his senior-laden team. Most people don't get a second chance, and that's what they have.

The only thing that's important about a year ago is, what did you learn from it. If we learned anything, we should be better.

— — — SOC boys

— — 1999-2000 — Predicted Finish

Coaches' poll results, with first-place — votes in parentheses:

1. South Medford (4).......45 — 2. Roseburg (3)..............44 — 3. North Medford (1).......36 — 4. Grants Pass..............35 — 5. Ashland.....................22 — 6. Eagle Point................21 — 7. Crater.......................14 — 8. Klamath Union............7

— 1998-99 Standings

1. North Medford.........12-2 — 2. Roseburg...............10-4 — 3. Eagle Point..............9-5 — 4. Crater......................7-7 — 5. (Tie) — Ashland......................6-8 — Grants Pass................6-8 — 7. South Medford.........5-9 — 8. Klamath Union.......1-13 — —

The other SOC coaches must agree, tabbing South as the league favorite this season with Roseburg, North Medford and Grants Pass nipping at its heels.

You have to look at South Medford simply for the fact they have everybody back and Dennis (Murphy) has been there before, says Roseburg coach Mike Pardon. They're one team that's heads-and-tails above everyone else.

Last season, South managed to play with every team in the league for the first three quarters. But that fourth quarter proved disastrous time after time, with the anemic Panther offense costing South at least six games.

A year of experience may help remedy South's fourth-quarter blues.

You don't know that until you actually start playing, says Murphy. That's the thing: Before it physically can happen, it emotionally has to happen.

The most important factor for South will be Hilgendorf at point guard. The 5-foot-9 floor leader will try to keep teams honest with an increased emphasis on scoring.

Hilgendorf does have a wealth of scoring options to choose from down low with the inside presence of Decker (6-7), Grant (6-3) and sophomore Eric Fiegi (6-7).

I think our post kids are big and have the ability to score, it's just whether we can score from the perimeter, says Murphy.

Wallenberg, Rasmussen and McKay each had their moments from the wing spot last season, but Murphy will need more consistency from them on the perimeter. Sophomore Ryan Heil has shown a sweet stroke from the outside already this season.

The chief opposition to the Panthers' bid for the SOC title rests with Roseburg, North Medford and Grants Pass. None of the three teams return as many starters as South, but all have enough talent to dethrone the preseason favorites.

Returning SOC all-star guard Kevin Linderman will once again be the centerpiece of the Indians' attack. The 5-11 point guard will be asked to carry the load with returning wings Brad Coen and Jered Moss.

Adding depth to the mix for Roseburg are 6-7 sophomore Joe Newton and 6-2 junior Ole Sheldon. Both have already proven to be prime scoring threats for the Indians this season.

Despite his potentially potent roster, Pardon says too much respect is being given an as-yet unproven lineup.

There are a lot of things we have to answer before we can be considered a top team in the league, he says. We're still learning a lot of things about ourselves.

One lesson came in a season-opening, 25-point trouncing by Mountain View.

It really was a good eye-opening experience for our kids, says Pardon. I think that will help us get ready for this year (in the SOC).

Probably the strongest SOC team out of the gate thus far has been Grants Pass at 4-0. The Cavemen possess a dangerous inside-outside presence and a solid bench that league coaches are already keeping an eye on.

Senior wing Rob Lesher is the lone starter back for Grants Pass, with returning lettermen Mike DeLaGrange, Andy Dobner and Tyler York forming a solid nucleus with 6-7 junior Ian Elseth.

Any one of those five can be a difference-maker for Grants Pass each time out on the court

Night to night, it's probably going to vary who leads us, says Grants Pass coach Bill Cowell.

Elseth and Dobner average 15 points per game.

North Medford went 12-2 to win the SOC last year in coach Gene Quilhaugh's first campaign.

This season's test will be how well the undersized Black Tornado will hold up against the league's top inside threats.

Senior guard Wes Towne returns, as does part-time starter Tate Mellbye, a senior.

Towne started the first six games last season before being sidelined with a broken elbow.

Returning lettermen Charlie Jensen, Mike Olson, Thomas O'Brien, Peter Oliver and Chris Weyers provide athleticism and an understanding of Quilhaugh's scheme -- but the coach says this year's team shouldn't be compared to the previous group.

That was last year's team, he says. We had eight seniors that were on that team. To say that we're the defending conference champions is not accurate because the boys last year won it. This is a different group.

Seniors Casey Casebier and Jeff Schlichting should also help North stir things up in the SOC, with the Black Tornado boasting probably the most athletic roster in the league.

Just having a full roster prior to the season-opener was unique for Ashland coach John Skinner. Basketball players who also play football usually turn out late because of the football state playoffs. That didn't happen this year.

Among the gridders at practice from Day — was Kris Pavilionis, who, along with Brett Zundel, has given Ashland a solid 1-2 punch the past three seasons.

Rounding out the Grizzly lineup are returning lettermen Carter Kirkpatrick, Trevor Streng and Zach Potocki. Newcomers Ryan Beugli, Kyle Allred and Noah Shields also will play key roles.

We should be pretty deep at all our positions, says Skinner. We're not going to be a team that just has one guy who can play.

Eagle Point, Crater and Klamath Union occupy the next tier.

Eagle Point's chances should increase with the return of senior leader Nick Rouhier in January. The hard-luck guard broke his collarbone during the football season and had it crack again after a collision in preseason practice.

In Rouhier's absence, seniors Jake Kleker and Steve Gray and junior Danny Acrey have paced the Eagles.

Crater lost stalwarts Matt Brown, Matt Harthun, Mike Jacobs and Jason Korthals. In their stead, coach Matt Meunier has the likes of senior returners Brent Foster and Chris Wright and junior returners P.J. Price and Steve Darnell. Junior Andy Haas' 6-7 frame should help the Comets form an inside threat.

Klamath Union's returning starters -- Dylan Woodrum, Adam Bailey and Anthony Munson -- form a strong nucleus. The big question the undersized Pelicans need to answer is who else can step up to push KU over the top.

— — — — — —

— — Ashland

— —

Coach-- John Skinner (third — year).

Current record-- 1-2

Returning starters-- Kris — Pavilionis, 5-8, sr., guard; Brett Zundel, 6-5, sr., center; Carter — Kirkpatrick, 6-3, jr., forward.

Returning SOC all-stars-- — Pavilionis, honorable mention; Zundel, honorable mention.

Returning lettermen-- Trevor — Streng, 5-11, sr., guard; Zack Potocki, 6-0, sr., guard.

Key newcomers-- Ryan Beugli, — 6-4, jr., guard; Kyle Allred, 6-4, jr., forward; Noah Shields, 6-5, — jr., center.

— — Crater

— —

Coach-- Matt Meunier (third — year).

Current record-- 2-2

Returning starters-- Brent — Foster, 6-3, sr., wing.

Returning lettermen-- Chris — Wright, 5-8, sr., wing/point; P.J. Price, 6-4, jr., post; Steve — Darnell, 5-11, jr., point.

Key newcomers-- Josh Jones, — 6-3, sr., post; Derek Petersen, 6-1, so., wing; Andy Haas, 6-7, jr., — post; Chris Pettegrew, 6-0, so., wing; Andrew Norum, 6-4, fr., post.

— — Eagle Point

— —

Coach-- Keith Williams (fifth — year).

Current record-- 0-2

Returning starters-- Jake — Kleker, 6-5, sr., post; Danny Acrey, 5-11, jr., point; Nick Rouhier, — 5-11, sr., wing.

Returning SOC all-stars-- — Kleker, honorable mention.

Returning lettermen-- Brad — Crawford, 6-0, sr., wing; Christian Anderson, 6-3, jr., post; Eric — Boucher, 5-10, sr., point.

Key newcomers-- Steve Gray, — 5-10, sr., wing; Eric Nackerud, 6-2, jr., post; Kyle Gray, 6-0, jr., — wing; Kye Fisher, 5-9, so., wing; Matt Campbell, 5-7, jr., point.

— — Grants Pass

— —

Coach-- Bill Cowell (fourth — year).

Current record-- 4-0

Returning starters-- Rob — Lesher, 5-9, sr., wing; Mike DeLaGrange, 6-6, sr., post.

Returning lettermen-- Andy — Dobner, 6-1, jr., wing; Tyler York, 6-0, so., guard.

Key newcomers-- Ian Elseth, — 6-7, jr., post; Luke Lathen, 6-1, jr., wing; Brant Minor, 6-2, so., — wing; Josh Schirle, 5-10, sr., guard; Craig Berg, 6-0, jr., wing.

— — Klamath Union

— —

Coach-- Brett Crawford (third — year).

Current record-- 1-3

Returning starters-- Dylan — Woodrum, 6-3, sr., post; Adam Bailey, 6-0, sr., point; Anthony — Munson, 6-2, sr., wing.

Returning SOC all-stars-- — Bailey, honorable mention; Munson, honorable mention.

Returning lettermen-- Andrew — Smith, 6-0, sr., post; Steve Thomas, 6-4, sr., post.

Key newcomers-- Jason — Mortenson, 5-10, jr., wing; Tyler Baker, 5-9, jr., wing; Nick Caleb, — 6-1, so., wing.

— — North Medford

— —

Coach-- Gene Quilhaugh — (second year).

Current record-- 1-3

Returning starters-- Wes — Towne, 6-2, sr., guard.

Returning lettermen-- Mike — Olson, 6-1, jr, guard; Tate Mellbye, 6-1, sr., guard; Chris Weyers, — 5-8, sr, guard; Peter Oliver, 6-0, sr., guard; Thomas O'Brien, 6-1, — jr., guard; Charlie Jensen, 5-10, sr., guard.

Key newcomers-- Casey — Casebier, 6-4, sr., post; Jeff Schlichting, 6-5, sr., post; Phil — Clark, 6-1, sr., guard; Isaac Folsom, 5-11, jr., guard; Kevin — Forman, 6-3, junior, guard.

— — Roseburg

— —

Coach-- Mike Pardon (seventh — year).

Current record-- 2-1

Returning starters-- Kevin — Linderman, 5-11, sr., point/wing.

Returning SOC all-stars-- — Linderman, honorable mention.

Returning lettermen-- Brad — Coen, 6-4, sr., wing; Jered Moss, 6-0, jr., wing; Vince Garcia, 5-8, — sr., point.

Key newcomers-- Joe Newton, — 6-7, so., post; Ryan Holt, 6-0, sr., wing; Ole Sheldon, 6-2, jr., — wing; Brandon Richardson, 6-4, sr., post; Brennan Garrelts, 6-6, — so., post; Michael McInerney, 6-0, jr., wing.

— — South Medford

— —

Coach-- Dennis Murphy (11th — year).

Current record-- 1-2

Returning starters-- Steve — Hilgendorf, 5-9, sr., point; Nick Decker, 6-7, sr., post; Colin — Grant, 6-3, sr., post; Ethan Wallenberg, 6-4, sr., wing; Damian — Rasmussen, 6-0, sr., wing; John McKay, 6-2, jr., wing.

Returning SOC all-stars-- — Hilgendorf, honorable mention; Rasmussen, honorable mention; — Wallenberg, honorable mention.

Returning lettermen-- David — Kime, 6-4, sr., post; Craig Tomlins, 5-11, jr., point.

Key newcomers-- Jared — Mulhollen, 6-4, jr., post; Eric Fiegi, 6-7, so., post; Ryan Heil, — 5-11, so., wing.

MT file photo Senior point guard Steve Hilgendorf is likely to contribute heavily for South Medford.