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Comets' stock continues to soar with win over North

A 5-foot-11point post, a stifling 1-3-1 zone and a history of success amount to a difficult opponent.

Add in rapidly building confidence, and the Crater girls basketball team is quickly becoming a nightmare matchup.

Leading from start to finish, the Comets cruised to their fourth straight victory Tuesday night at North Medford High, handing the Black Tornado a 48-34 home defeat.

The corner-turning win streak has come just in the nick of time for Crater, which is attempting to secure a postseason berth for the eighth straight year. The Comets (12-9 overall) are in fourth place ' the final Class 4A state-playoff spot ' at 7-4 with three games to play in the Southern Oregon Conference season.

At the beginning (of the season), I think we were a little mechanical on offense, said first-year Crater head coach Scott Dippel. What we've started doing is opening it up and letting our kids play. It sounds real simple, but a lot of times I think kids forget to do that.

We've got kids who can make plays and are good athletes. It's just a matter of putting them in a position to do that.

The Comets made plays from the start of Tuesday's tilt, bursting to a 13-0 lead as the Tornado (13-8, 8-3 SOC) was held scoreless until 2 minutes, 30 seconds remained in the first quarter.

We were pumped today, said Dani Montgomery, a 5-11 junior post whose ballhandling and playmaking abilities troubled North all night.

The Tornado trailed 30-17 midway through the third before sophomore point guard Kailey Bostwick drilled 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to start a North surge.

Junior guard Anna Lilly's jumper in the final seconds of the third and sophomore forward Mellisa Eastwold's 3-point play to begin the fourth capped the 11-0 streak to pull the Tornado within 30-28.

After the teams traded a pair of free throws, Montgomery turned a steal into one free throw, then dropped both ends of a one-and-one to make it 35-30.

Crater ' contesting every outside shot and collapsing around North star Kerstin Mellbye when she received the ball in the paint ' made another stop. Then Montgomery found junior point guard Whitney Black for a pretty baseline jumper to boost the margin to 37-30 with just less than five minutes left.

The Tornado, which remains tied for second in the SOC with Ashland, never threatened again.

We got the big lead early, and that gave us confidence, Dippel said. Then when the game got close, we stepped in with some key shots. ... Whitney had that key shot when she came off a back screen on the other side, a fadeaway. That was a huge shot.

For North, which shot 11-of-40 (27.5 percent) from the field and committed six of its 16 turnovers in the final period, the contest was frustrating from the outset.

They did a good job of coming out and playing with a lot of intensity, said Tornado first-year head coach Tim Karrick. Their season was on the line.

They frustrated us on offense. We didn't really have a chance to get into any kind of pressure because we couldn't stop them from scoring early. And they dictated the tempo. They played a real solid game.

The outcome was drastically different than in the teams' first meeting Jan. 14, when North ended Crater's streak of 42 straight SOC victories with a 61-44 romp in Central Point.

In that game, Lilly hurt the Comets from the outside with a game-high 20 points as Crater made Mellbye its defensive focus.

This time, the Comets shut down both the inside and outside aspects of North's attack.

In the process, they earned themselves another in a string of momentous wins.

It gives us a whole new outlook, said Montgomery, who produced 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. It's a tremendous victory.

Robertson led Crater with 16 points, and Black added 12.

CRATER (48) ' Robertson 16, Montgomery 14, Huntley 3, Kinney 1, Black 12, Wasniewski 0, Kell 2, Stoner 0, Green 0. Totals: 18-44 12-16 48.

NORTH MEDFORD (34) ' Seeley 4, Westermann 1, Mellbye 10, Lilly 2, Bostwick 6, Eastwold 3, Reeves 6, Standifer 0, Cordell 2. Totals: 11-40 10-12 34.

Crater ....................................... 15 9 6 18 ' 48

North Medford ............................. 8 8 9 9 ' 34

3-point goals ' North Medford 2 (Bostwick 2).

JV score ' North Medford 45, Crater 41, OT.

Reach reporter Tim Pyle at 776-4483 or e-mail