South Medford falls
PORTLAND - The South Medford Panthers entered the boys Class 4A state basketball tournament as the No. — seed.
They boasted a 23-1 record and an 18-game win streak.
Expectations were high.
And that's what made Friday's 62-45 consolation semifinal loss to Churchill and the ensuing exit from the tournament so difficult to endure.
With only one victory and two defeats at the tournament, the Panthers underachieved. And they knew it.
"I think the effort was there today, but the mental part was lacking," said senior post Eric Fiegi as he sat on a locker-room bench at Memorial Coliseum after the game. "It's tough to go out like this. It's over for the seniors, and that's pretty much this whole team."
Jered Alsup riddled the Panthers for 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field and Jordan Kent, a son of University of Oregon coach Ernie Kent who is headed to the UO on a scholarship, added 19 points and 13 rebounds to power Churchill to the victory.
The Lancers, now 21-6, advanced to the fourth-place final, where they'll meet Grants Pass at 2 p.m. today.
South Medford played well early, grabbing leads of 3-2, 13-10 and 15-14 in the game's first seven minutes.
Churchill led 16-15 after an opening period that featured three ties and five lead changes.
Ryan Heil's 3-point basket from the top of the key regained the lead for South Medford early in the second quarter, and the Panthers seemed destined for a down-to-the-wire donnybrook with the 2001 state-champion Lancers.
But 18 seconds after Fiegi feathered in a 6-foot jumper that tied the game at 20-20 with 4 minutes, 48 seconds left in the first half, he picked up his third foul and had to go to the bench.
Churchill then went on a 10-0 blitz to take control, with the 6-foot-4 Alsup and the 6-5 Kent attacking the lane for two baskets apiece during the run.
"Our kids believe that spurts happen because of defense and not fancy offense, and I think we defended them pretty tough during that spurt," said Churchill coach John Roche, who announced he will retire following today's game against Grants Pass.
South Medford went 41/2 minutes without scoring until Heil finally made a layup off a backdoor cut with 18 seconds left in the half, cutting Churchill's advantage to 30-22.
The Panthers then stole the ball and were looking to score again, but Kent stole it back and made a layup just before time expired, giving the Lancers a 32-22 edge at the break.
"Boomer (Marshall) was looking to pass the ball ahead, and it looked like Kent fouled him," South Medford coach Dennis Murphy said. "That's a potential four-point swing and a big momentum change.
"I don't know if it would have made any difference in the outcome of the game, but it was pretty big at the time."
Fiegi came alive in the third period for nine of his 15 points, but the Lancers still managed to outscore South Medford 17-13 in the quarter to take a 49-35 lead heading into the final eight minutes of play.
The Panthers were still within 52-39 with 5:16 left when Fiegi hit a layup, but Kent responded with two free throws and a layup over the next 33 seconds that all but sealed the victory for Churchill.
As good as Kent played, the left-handed Alsup played even better. Not only did he shoot exceptionally from the field, he also sank all six of his free throws and had five assists and four rebounds to go with his game-high 26 points.
"He's a snaky slasher in there," Roche said of Alsup. "Half the time people forget that he's left-handed, and he knows how to get his shot off in traffic against bigger guys."
The victory assured the Lancers no worse than sixth place and earned them a trophy for the ninth time in the past 10 years.
CHURCHILL (62) - Alsup 10-14 6-6 26, Kent 7-9 5-11 19, Ralston 6-7 -1 12, Je. Worcester 0-1 0-0 0, Jo. Worcester 1-4 0-1 2, Kronmiller 0-0 0-0 0, White 0-2 0-0 0, Vobora 0-2 0-0 0, Ross 1-1 0-2 2, Dose 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Watkins 0-0 1-2 1. Totals: 25-40 12-23 62.
SOUTH MEDFORD (45) - Heil 3-12 0-0 7, E. Fiegi 7-10 1-2 15, Walport 2-3 1-2 5, Johnson 2-4 0-0 5, Marshall 1-4 1-3 4, Smith 0-0 1-3 1, Lower 0-1 0-0 0, Fischer 2-3 1-3 5, Hagert 0-0 1-2 1, Olson 0-1 0-0 0, R. Fiegi 0-0 0-0 0, Carpenter 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 8-40 6-15 45.
Churchill...............................................16 16 17 13 - 62
South Medford........................................15 7 13 10 - 45
3-point goals - Churchill 0-1 (Vobora 0-1), South Medford 3-7 (Heil 1-3, Johnson 1-1, Marshall 1-2, Lower 0-1). Total fouls - Churchill 17, South Medford 19. Fouled out - Johnson. Rebounds - Churchill 32 (Kent 13), South Medford 18 (Marshall 5). Assists - Churchill 13 (Alsup 5), South Medford 7 (Heil 3). Turnovers - Churchill 22, South Medford 19.
Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail