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Comets on fire in all facets

Crater's rout of South Medford tightens its grip on fourth place in the Southern Oregon Conference

CENTRAL POINT ' The Crater girls basketball team won't win the Southern Oregon Conference this season.

Roseburg has already sewn up that honor.

But the Comets just might be the best in the SOC right now.

Crater continued its late-season surge with an 82-49 whipping of South Medford in the Comets' gym Friday night.

After going 3-4 the first time through the SOC schedule, the Comets are now 5-0 the second time around.

Clashes with Ashland (9-3 SOC and tied for second place with North Medford) on Tuesday and at fourth-ranked Roseburg (12-0 SOC) on Thursday still remain for Crater (13-9, 8-4 SOC).

And it's possible the Comets may not make the Class 4A state playoffs if they lose those two games to end the regular season. If that happens and the Panthers (8-13, 6-6 SOC) win their final two ' at Eagle Point (3-9 SOC) on Tuesday and against Grants Pass (1-11 SOC) on Friday ' South and Crater would meet to determine fourth place next Saturday.

The way Crater's rolling right now, however, two wins appear much more likely than two losses next week.

We wanna be the team that's playing the best at the end of the season, Comets head coach Scott Dippel said.

They looked every bit that part against South, shooting 50.8 percent (32-of-63) from the field, including 66.7 percent (8-for-12) from 3-point territory, and outrebounding the bigger Panthers 43-35.

We're working so hard, and everybody has so much enthusiasm, said junior forward Katie Robertson, who celebrated her 17th birthday by contributing 15 points to the 51 for which she, junior point guard Whitney Black (21) and junior forward Dani Montgomery (15) combined. We're having fun. We're enjoying ourselves.

Conversely, joy was nowhere to be found for South, which lost two starters to injury in addition to having its own playoff hopes dealt a severe blow.

With Crater leading 27-19, senior point guard Natasha Wright suffered a probable concussion when she collided with three Comets with 4 minutes, 48 seconds left in the second quarter. She lay motionless on the court for several minutes before being helped to the Panther bench and did not return.

No foul was called on the play and the ball was awarded to Crater, which led to South head coach Andrea Jaime being whistled for a technical.

With 5:55 to go in the third quarter, senior post Jennifer Brennan appeared to dislocate her right shoulder ' a recurring injury ' as she saved a rebound from crossing the baseline.

That's two of your top five players, including your point guard and leading scorer (Wright), going out, said Jaime, in her sixth year with the Panthers.

The Comets earned a cushions of 43-31 at the half.

But when South rattled off the first six points of the second half, the difference was just 43-37.

Montgomery stroked her third and final — to start Crater's 14-6 streak to end the period, then the Comets put an exclamation on the victory by drilling 9 of 13 field goals and outscoring the Panthers 25-6 in the final quarter.

Sophomore forward Katie Singler and senior center Beth Mueller kept South close until midway through the third. Singler finished with 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting, five assists, three rebounds and two blocked shots. Mueller accumulated 13 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.

Crater's three-pronged offensive dagger of Black, Robertson and Montgomery was razor-sharp all night, however. And beyond the scoring, Black had eight rebounds and seven assists, Robertson claimed six boards and two blocks and Montgomery posted nine rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Throw in the defensive efforts of senior starters Erin Kinney and Crystal Huntley and a bench that produced 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, and the Comets had it all going Friday night.

They're playing very, very well right now, said Jaime, whose squad harassed Crater into 20-percent shooting in a 49-40 Panthers' win in the last meeting, Jan. 17. Offensively, they're really hitting on all cylinders and shooting with a lot of confidence.

The Comets won't claim their fourth straight and seventh SOC crown in eight years this season.

But they could still accomplish a lot ' and just might the way they're rolling.

We've been through a whole lot as a team, said Dippel, in his first year in charge. The fact that we trust each other is contributing to our success now. I know it's a clich?, but you really can't coach chemistry.

SOUTH MEDFORD (49) '

Singler 17, Brennan 3, Mueller 13, Corbin 4, Wright 2, Silva 4, Carlton 0, Grant 0, Towry 4, Keck 2, Watson 0, Palazzolo 0. Totals: 19-61 10-16 49.

CRATER (82) ' Robertson 15, Montgomery 15, Huntley 2, Kinney 7, Black 21, Kell 6, Wasniewski 8, Stoner 8, Bettencourt 0, Green 0, Adams, Tyska 0. Totals: 32-63 10-18 82.

South Medford .......................... 12 19 12 6 '49

Crater ..................................... 17 26 14 25 ' 82

3-point goals ' South Medford — (Singler 1), Crater 8 (Robertson 2, Montgomery 3, Black 2, Wasniewski 1). Technical fouls ' South Medford coach Jaime.

JV score ' Crater 56, South Medford 37.

South Medford?s Kelsey Corbin, right, looks to drive against Crater?s Dani Montgomery. Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman