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Pelicans storm past cold-shooting Black Tornado

When you set the scene for Friday night's Southern Oregon Conference boys basketball game against Klamath Union, North Medford really had no reason to lack motivation.

Truth be told, opportunity rarely knocks as loud as it did Friday night in the North Medford High gym.

A win over the Pelicans would: 1) Avenge last season's series sweep by KU on two buzzer-beaters; 2) Protect North's homecourt advantage; 3) Provide much-needed separation in a tight SOC playoff race.

But in the face of securing all those brass rings, the Black Tornado fell flat in its most lethargic effort of the season.

Instead, it was Klamath Union which played with the kind of energy necessitated by the playoff atmosphere, with the Pelicans doing just enough to score a 50-37 road victory over North.

We told our kids if they wanted to move up higher than fourth (place in the SOC), it starts tonight, said KU coach Bret Crawford. They understood that and came out and did what they needed to do.

Friday's loss kept North (9-8) from taking a two-game advantage on third place in the SOC, instead moving the Tornado and Pelicans (12-7) into a tie for third at 5-4 in conference.

Both teams trail South Medford (9-0) and Grants Pass (7-2), and have a one-game lead over Roseburg (4-5) with five SOC games to go.

They were fighting for their playoff lives and we had to act like we were, and we didn't, said second-year North coach Tim Sam.

We didn't take care of ourselves, and now we're in a fight with four or five other teams for two playoff spots. It just looked like they wanted the game more than we did.

North Medford shot a dismal 24 percent from the field (11-for-46), converting only 3-of-16 attempts from 3-point range (19 percent). The Tornado was also outrebounded 45-22.

They just weren't in rhythm and their shots weren't falling tonight, said Crawford, himself trying to make sense of North's woeful shooting performance.

North scored only 18 points through the first three quarters, at one point going five minutes and 34 seconds without scoring a point.

A lineup sprinkled with junior varsity players helped North muster up some promise with a 19-point surge in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late.

The effort that we put out on the basketball floor for three quarters was disappointing, said a befuddled Sam. Why we wouldn't come out with passion and energy in a game that's so meaningful on a Friday night, on our home court, in front of a nice crowd ... we're still searching for answers to that.

Through it all, North still had a chance at victory in the fourth quarter after Klamath Union failed to put the game away. A 3-pointer by Drew Herrera clipped North's deficit to 44-33 with 3:30 to play, and an ensuing steal by Herrera set the stage for more heroics until North once again went cold.

Zach Tucker and Jacob Wynn, who led KU with 14 points apiece, each scored three points to help the Pelicans hold on down the stretch.

Will Sargent added 10 points and 10 rebounds for KU, while Ryan Lucas had nine points and Herrera eight to lead North.

KU's win simply proved to be a continuation of an already odd season that has seen the Pelicans go 1-3 at home and 4-1 on the road.

We can't really explain it, said Tucker, but on the road we get a little more up for games, and at home I think we get a little cocky or overconfident. On the road, we just come out a little more focused, knowing there's more incentive to win.

And incentive is what Friday's game was all about.

KLAMATH UNION (50) ' Wynn 14, Tucker 14, Sargent 10, B. Hughes 5, Ritter 3, Lockrem 2, Crawford 1, Metz 1, Baldwin 0, Negrevski 0, S. Hughes 0, Tidwell 0, Stewart 0, Spires 0. Totals: 15-38 19-28 50.

NORTH MEDFORD (37) ' Lucas 9, Herrera 8, Running 6, Ryan 6, DeLine 4, Clifton 4, Hovland 0, Williamson 0, Timmerman 0, Strahm 0, O'Brien 0. Totals: 11-46 12-18 37.

Klamath Union............................14 9 12 15 ' 50

North Medford................................8 5 5 19 ' 37

3-point goals ' Klamath Union 1-5 (Ritter 1), North Medford 3-16 (Herrera 2, Clifton 1). Fouled out ' Hovland, Ryan.

JV score ' North Medford 58, Klamath Union 51.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail