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Stephens' steady play slows North

The pressure came in waves at the Roseburg girls basketball team and its junior point guard Katie Stephens.

The fourth-ranked Indians (21-2, 13-0 SOC), already with a Southern Oregon Conference title in hand, knew as much coming in against a North Medford squad fighting for its playoff life.

But in the end it was Stephens' heady play that moved her team one step closer to an unblemished SOC season with a 53-44 victory over the Black Tornado at the North Medford gym.

Stephens scored seven points and collected four assists while playing all 32 minutes against the Tornado's ball-hawking defense.

I don't think I've rested all season, said a weary Stephens. It was kind of frustrating because they were pressuring me the whole game. I'm pretty tired and worn out.

Despite North's constant full-court defensive blitz, the Indians found enough lanes offensively to hold a double-digit lead for most of the game.

North Medford (14-9, 9-4 SOC) twice whittled the deficit to nine in the final quarter but could get no closer.

Roseburg came out and was hitting everything at the start, and we couldn't throw it into the ocean, said North coach Tim Karrick. I thought the girls did a good job of battling back; I just wished we'd played the whole game like we did in the second half.

They're a very, very good team. They're not ranked fourth for nothing.

Sophomore guard Jennifer Standifer's left-corner 3-pointer cut the Indians' lead to 45-36 with six minutes to play. But North's leading scorer, Kerstin Mellbye, fouled out shortly after and Roseburg countered with free throws from Jori Grady and Marri Coen to push the advantage to 12.

Darcy Cordell banked in a — with two minutes left to bring North within 10, but the Indians made enough free throws in the waning seconds to make the lead stand.

You know, even when we were up by 18 or 20, I knew it wasn't over, said Roseburg coach Bob Feasel. Tim's done a great job with that team, and they play awfully hard.

That first half was the best we've played defensively all season. Even though we've already clinched, to see how we reacted in the first half, that showed me something. I knew the girls came to play.

North's pressure created problems for Roseburg at the outset, but a 3-all tie three minutes into the game was all they could salvage.

Stephens turned into a one-person press-breaker, and her teammates responded with an 11-0 spurt to close the first quarter.

It sounds kind of bad, but we're better off having her (Stephens) do that, said Feasel of his guard's press-breaking abilities. She's such a competitor and sees everything so well out there on the court. It just works to let her break it rather than looking to pass the ball around.

A 7-0 burst in the final two minutes of the half pushed the Roseburg lead from seven to 25-11 heading into the break.

Mellbye led North with 12 points, while Bostwick added eight, all in the second half.

Micaela Williams and Grady each finished with 12. Kristen Bitter pulled down seven rebounds as Roseburg earned a 24-19 advantage on the glass and attempted 24 free throws to North's 17.

The Tornado travels to Ashland to close out the season on Thursday. The Grizzlies (10-3 SOC), a 61-57 winner over fourth-place Crater (8-5) on Tuesday, hold a one-game lead over North and two-game edge on the Comets, leaving the two through four spots still up for grabs.

The Indians finish with Crater at home and the possibility of a 14-0 SOC mark heading into the Class 4A state tournament.

ROSEBURG (53) ' Williams 12, Fuller 9, Grady 12, Bitter 6, Stephens 7, Kitzrow 2, Coen 5. Totals: 18 13-24 53.

NORTH MEDFORD (44) ' Lilly 7, Mellbye 12, Seeley 4, Bostwick 8, Eastwold 2, Westermann 5, Standifer 3, Cordell 3, Reeves 0. Totals: 14 13-17 44.

Roseburg...................................14 11 17 11 ' 53

North Medford............................3 8 15 18 ' 44

3-point goals ' Roseburg 4 (Grady 2, Stephens 1, Williams 1), North Medford — (Bostwick 1, Standifer 1, Cordell 1). Fouled out ' Mellbye.

JV result ' North Medford won.

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4480 or e-mail .