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South knocks off Ashland

ASHLAND — South Medford had plenty of motivation when it stepped onto the Ashland High floor Friday night.

For one thing, the Panthers were a bit embarrassed by a 15-point loss to the Grizzlies in December.

Secondly, the Panthers are just stubborn enough to believe second-place in the Southern Oregon Conference girls basketball race can be theirs.

Point guard Whitney Grant carved up Ashland's press while Emily Perttu scored 20 points and Kellie Thomas tossed in 17 more as South jostled its way into a second-place tie with a heart-stopping 64-61 victory.

We wanted to come out hard defensively and give ourselves a shot to win, said Grant, who added 12 points and four assists.

The Panthers were caught flat-footed in December as the Grizzlies danced to a 62-47 triumph.

It was clear from the opening tip that South wanted to wipe the slate clean.

I can't even remember that game, admitted senior center Karla Zenz. All I know is that we didn't do as well as we did tonight.

Three games into the conference schedule the Panthers were 1-2 and didn't have much wind in their sails. But South knocked off Grants Pass on the road, 53-44, and has won five of its past six.

Coupled with Klamath Union's 50-45 win at Roseburg, the Panthers (11-7, 6-3 SOC) find themselves tied for second with the Grizzlies (11-6, 6-3 SOC).

We knew we had to come in with a lot more fire and not let them jump on us like they did at home, Perttu said. It's do-or-die time if we're going to finish as high in the conference as we want so we can get to the Chiles Center (and the state tournament).

Both teams sizzled from the field at times, although they had their cold spells too.

They combined for 12 3-pointers and after an 8-for-15 first half at the foul line, South finished 17 of 28 at the charity stripe.

Ashland didn't miss in 12 trips to the line.

South Medford coach Andrea Wegner, who had No. 2 Crater teetering with a slow-down approach, contained Jackie Woods — the No. — scorer in the SOC with an 18.4 average — with a box-and-one defense.

Woods finished with 14 rebounds and 12 points, but earned every one of them as Zenz and Perttu did their utmost to make her night miserable.

With the box, I didn't have to always help inside and I could really focus on Jackie and someone else could double with me, Zenz said.

Ashland coach Heather Roberts expected her South Medford counterpart to have something up her sleeve.

I figured they?d do something funky, Roberts admitted. We just never got into our flow. We made some mini runs, but we weren't in a total flow for three or four minutes. And they did a nice job of countering our runs.

Lindsey Huyett sparked Ashland's final surge with two 3-pointers as the Grizzlies built their biggest lead, 58-53, with 4:09 to play.

But Thomas ignited a 9-0 run as the Panthers countered one last time.

Perttu beat the Grizzlies? press twice, once for a layin and earned two free throws another time. Thomas sank both ends of a one-and-one with 37 seconds to play to stretch South's advantage to 62-58.

But Huyett sliced it to 62-61 with her fifth trey from the top of the key with 11 seconds to play. Huyett finished with a team-high 19 points.

Ashland called time and immediately fouled Grant with nine seconds. Grant laced both free throws. But Ashland still had a chance.

Huyett was covered and Jessica Bullen's attempt was swatted away by Perttu. Hanna Seltzer grabbed the ball and whirled up a shot that banked in, but the buzzer sounded as she swung to face the hoop.

Seltzer had earlier banked in a shot just across the mid-court line to end the first half.

Normally coach Roberts doesn't like us taking those shots in practice, Seltzer said. During our practice today Stephanie Hargis and I were working on those shots for the first time this season.

The buzzer-beater to end the second quarter reduced South's 37-31 advantage by half.

I didn't expect a substantial lead at the half and I wasn't even bothered by Hanna's basket, Wegner said. We needed to stick with what we were doing and we did.

The Panthers had the answers for Ashland's press as well as Grant knifed through the Grizzlies? traps time and again.

There aren't a lot of point guards that can handle our traps, said Seltzer, who had seven steals. Whitney and (Crater's Sarah) Pool are about the only ones.

When our press isn't working it hurts, because so much of our offensive momentum comes off our press. She definitely burned our traps and if you break our traps ...

Offensive rebounds again aided the Panthers as they snared 15.

We gave up way too many offensive rebounds and they turned a lot of them into putbacks for points, Roberts said. That's frustrating.

Amber Hunt topped South with nine rebounds, while Zenz had six — all on the offensive end — and Thomas added six more.

The close ones are the fun ones, Wegner said. We want to win some of those and get used to that.

SOUTH MEDFORD (64) — Perttu 20, Wright 2, Grant 12, Hunt 4, Thomas 17, Mueller 0, Zenz 9. Totals: 21-50 17-28 64.

ASHLAND (61) — Bullen 4, Fascilla 0, Gooch 0, Huyett 19, Kalemkeris 2, Morin 10, Seltzer 14, Woods 12. Totals: 21-57 12-12 61.

South Medford.......................................16 17 11 20 — 64 Ashland..................................................12 18 14 17 — 61

3-point goals — South Medford 5 (Grant 2, Thomas 3), Ashland 7 (Huyett 5, Seltzer 2). Fouled out — Morin.

JV score — South Medford 54, Ashland 46.

Reach reporter at 776-4483, or e-mail gstiles@mailtribune.com

South knocks off Ashland