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Round 1 goes to North

Not in their weirdest dreams.

Perhaps not even in their worst nightmares.

Two top-10 heavyweights with a combined 19-2 record and a penchant for scoring 25 points in a quarter bashed into each other in full-force Friday night at North Medford High.

The result?

A 27-25 victory for the eighth-ranked Black Tornado over two-time defending Southern Oregon Conference girls basketball champion and fifth-ranked Crater.

It was just a battle, said a drained North Medford coach Mike Kay, who like the 2,600 onlookers, expected something different.

You'd like to see a high-scoring, action-packed game. They got the action-packed part, but their wasn't much scoring.

Kay and Crater coach David Heard walked off the court arm-in-arm at halftime, both bewildered by the 15-15 score.

I told him that was a good quarter and that they outscored us about 29-28 on knockout points.

The woeful shooting statistics -- North was 10-of-36 (27.8 percent) from the field and Crater 6-of-40 (14.6) percent) -- told most of the story.

Six field goals, said Heard, shaking his in disbelief.

That's the lowest total I've been around (in four years) as a coach or as a player.

Much of the Comets' awful shooting can be blamed on North's 6-foot-3 center Ericka Brosterhous, who blocked a half-dozen shots and forced the Comets to redirect another dozen.

We kept driving inside and she kept swatting shots away, said Crater forward Caryn Ross. We almost refused to pull up and take the 10- to 12-foot shots and the ones we were taking weren't falling.

The pivotal moments came in the middle of the third quarter after Cherrith Wiersma drove inside to give Crater its last lead, 17-15. Brosterhous stood between Wiersma and the hoop and the 5-foot-9 senior guard went right at her and was called for charging.

Crater didn't score another field goal for over 13 minutes.

Sophomore Tressa Manwaring drilled the game's lone 3-pointer from the right corner to give North an 18-17 lead then Ashlee Giles converted a steal into a layin and North was on a roll.

Then it was senior forward Chassie Wiersma's turn to play the kamikaze as she plowed into Brosterhous, hoping to draw a foul. But Brosterhous once again had the position and the charge went to Wiersma.

It's pretty much a do-or-die thing, a 50-50 chance when you do that, said Brosterhous. Chassie is a good player and can really drive. But if you're stopped and don't move the refs will see it and call it for you.

Brosterhous -- not to mention most everyone on the floor -- was off her usual 16.4 points-per-game scoring clip. Still she led North with 10 points, while Chassie Wiersma topped Crater with 11.

I knew they were going to try to keep me from posting up and they denied that and they kept the ball from me on the wing, Brosterhous said. So I stepped up my defense and kept them out of the paint as much as I could.

What the contest lacked in offensive artistry was made up in simple drama. Crater appeared forlorn and hopeless as North forged a 26-18 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Eight points in this game was huge, Kay said of the advantage.

I think we gave up on ourselves and lost our composure, Ross said.

But Crater has rallied from behind several times this season and true to form the Comets were in position to take the lead or force an overtime in the final 20 seconds.

Only problem was that Cherrith Wiersma committed her fifth foul with 34 seconds to play. The Comets committed 22 turnovers before Wiersma fouled out. They turned the ball over twice without a shot in the final 16 seconds.

North point guard Dolinda Meeker was limited to three points, but key steals in the second half kept the Comets from finding their rhythm.

I knew we were playing good defense, because they only had 15 points at the half, Meeker said. Only 15.

But the Comets trailed merely 26-25 with 14.3 seconds left when Meeker hit a free throw to extend the lead to two points.

Without a doubt, Kay said. That was the best game Dolinda has played. She was dealing with a point guard the caliber of (Cherrith) Wiersma and we wanted to let her go on her as long as she could. Dolinda was starting to frustrate her.

Kay is wary of a letdown at South Medford tonight. Heard had a lament beyond the simple fact Crater fell a game behind the Tornado (10-1, 5-0 SOC) and facing Roseburg at home tonight.

Heard had a lament beyond falling a game behind North.

We hyped this game up, Heard said. With all the great players and all the scoring. Then we come out and perform like that.

CRATER (25) -- Gentile 0, Dunlap 0, Robbins 0, Ross 4, Che. Wiersma 4, McLeod 2, Wiley 3, Cha. Wiersma 11, Schneider 1. Totals: 6-41 13-17 25.

NORTH MEDFORD (27) -- Close 0, Crenshaw 2, Meeker 3, Harvey 0, Dickerson 3, Giles 2, Manwaring 3, Brosterhous 10, Ledford 2, Jackson 2. Totals: 10-36 6-15 27.

Crater8 7 — 7 -- 25

North Medford4 11 8 4 -- 27

3-point goals -- North Medford — (Manwaring 1). Fouled out -- Che. Wiersma.

JV score -- North Medford 60, Crater 57.

Crater's Caryn Ross scraps for a loose ball with North Medford's Aimee Dickerson. - Photo by Andy Atkinson