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Heil's heroics propel South

The Iceman cometh.

To the South Medford Panthers.

After what sophomore guard Ryan Heil did for his team Thursday night, that nickname was quick to come out of the mouth of South Medford High boys basketball coach Dennis Murphy for his budding star.

Heil converted three free throws with no time on the clock in regulation play to tie the game and the Panthers went on to defeat McNary of Keizer 56-51 in the championship game of the Abby's Holiday Classic.

I wasn't really that nervous, said Heil. I just prayed a lot.

I've been in that situation before and I was successful. That helped. I thought about that.

Heil had to miss the final shot of a one-and-one free throw situation with 1.6 seconds left on the clock in regulation time and the Panthers trailing 49-46. He banked the free throw off the backboard and it bounced long to 6-foot-7 center Nick Decker.

Decker tapped the ball backwards to Heil standing behind the 3-point line. Heil could only fire in desperation as time ran out. He missed.

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Ethan Wallenberg of South, left, — shoots over Matt Taylor.

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But he caught a major break when Brian Zelinsky of McNary was called for a shooting foul beyond the 3-point arc.

That meant three free throws for Heil. Since no time remained on the clock, all other players on the floor had to step away from the lane, leaving Heil a lonely free-throw shooter with intense pressure on his shoulders.

Before Heil could convert the first free throw, McNary coach Larry Gahr took a timeout to try to ice the confident sophomore. It didn't work as Heil cleanly netted the first of three free throws. Before the second shot, Gahr tried to ice Heil again with another timeout.

Once again, Heil defied the searing pressure and converted.

Gahr had no more timeouts. And Heil had no doubts in his mind as he converted the third free throw to send the teams into overtime.

I tried to stay as positive as I could and I prayed, said Heil.

In the overtime, South Medford got an offensive rebound basket by David Kime and five free throws in six attempts by forward Ethan Wallenberg.

The Celtics missed a lay-up and two free throws in the extra session.

What Ryan (Heil) did was exceptional, but you have to remember that he would never have had to do that if we hadn't some things, said Murphy. I tried to tell him that it wasn't all on him if he missed.

But Heil, who dominated boys AAU and junior high school basketball as a point guard when he was growing up in Medford, wouldn't hear that.

I just knew I was going to make them, said Heil.

South Medford improved its refodrd to 5-4. The Panthers open Southern Oregon Conference play Tuesday night on the same North Medford floor against rival North Medford High.

South Medford fell behind 45-41 with 2:39 left in regulation time and the Panthers trailed in the final five seconds.

Ironically, Heil missed 3-point shots under heavy pressure with the Panthers trailing 49-46 with 12 seconds left in regulation and 6.1 seconds left as the Panthers tried desperately to tie the game.

Finally, Heil was fouled on his second 3-point attempt.

He converted the first of two free throws and missed the second one as the 6-7 Decker leaped high to make the tap-back pass to Heil.

Don't forget about how big that play by Nick (Decker) was, said Murphy. Ryan deserves credit here, but so do several other kids.

Ethan Wallenberg stepped up big in the overtime to score five big points, said Murphy. But Ryan is now Iceman around here.'.

Wallenberg led South Medford with 13 points, Heil added 12 and point guard Steve Hilgendorf -- who was named to the all-tournament team -- had 11.

Ironically, Hilgendorf fouled out with three minutes left in regulation time, forcing Heil to the point guard spot from the shooting guard position.

After a slow start, South Medford rolled to a 28-20 halftime lead with a 15-2 run that started with five seconds left in the first quarter.

McNary managed just two points in the second period as the Panthers roared to the eight-point halftime lead.

South Medford appeared to lose its momentum early in the third quarter after Medford official Vern Loy collapsed on the floor. After a 15-minute delay, Loy was taken to a local hospital for medical attention.

We lost our momentum there, and it was hard to get it back, said Murphy.

McNary rallied from a 30-23 deficit to a 41-39 lead during the next eight minutes.

Heil converted two free throws and scored on a lay-up to cut the McNary lead to 47-45 with 46 seconds left.

But Zelinsky converted two free throws to up the Celtics'lead to 48-45 with 37 seconds left to set up the late-game dramatics.

Forward Shiloh Rowland led McNary with 20 points and David Zahradnik added 10.

Joining Hilgendorf on the all-tournament team were Rowland, Mark Gayman of Glencoe, Travis Jones of McMinnville, Jared Abell of Crook County.

MCNARY (51)-- Zielinski 6, Hess 3, Corss 0, Ellison 2, Taylor 2, Rowland 20, Zahradnik 10, Lent 2, Medford 6. Totals: 20 8-18 51.

SOUTH MEDFORD (56)-- Hilgendorf 11, Heil 12, McKay 2, Rasmussen 1, Wallenberg 13, Mulhollen 2, Grant 3, Kime 3, Decker 3, Fiegi 0. Totals: 20 16-24 56.

McNary

...................18 2 16 13 2 -- 51 South Medford

.....15 13 11 10 7 -- 56

3-point field goals -- McNary — (Zahradnik 3). Fouled out -- Rowland. Technical foul -- South Medford coach Dennis Murphy.

Photos by Drew Fleming South Medford's Steve Hilgendorf shoots over McNary's Brian Zielinski.