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Grants Pass shoots down North

A funny thing happened to the Grants Pass boys basketball team Thursday night as it went in search of a second straight blowout of North Medford.

As was the case in the first meeting between the teams ' a 73-42 rout by GP ' the Cavemen stormed out to an early double-digit lead.

Only this time, the Black Tornado refused to go away in the regular-season finale at North Medford High.

North erased a 13-point halftime deficit with a sensational second-half surge, only to see all the hard work go in vain as Grants Pass refused to wilt and held on for a 64-53 victory.

North hit some great shots and came ready to play, said 6-foot-6 Grants Pass senior Kory Mahr, who had a team-high 14 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. I credit them totally. They came out and played real hard. They didn't want to go down like they did last time.

North shot a chilly 28 percent from the field in the first meeting between the Southern Oregon Conference squads, and it stood at 29 percent (7-for-24) at halftime Thursday.

But spurred by a transition game that had Beau Hovland flying all over the court and foul trouble that sent Mahr to the bench midway through the third, the Black Tornado (12-10, 8-6 SOC) finally got things clicking after halftime.

Hovland's second 3-pointer of the half pulled North within two points at 41-39 with 7:15 to play, and a layup by Drew Herrera following a GP turnover moments later evened the score.

North had a chance to take its first lead of the game after a defensive stand, but Herrera's pull-up 3-pointer found nothing but air.

The same couldn't be said on the next trip for the Cavemen (19-5, 12-2), as Mike Pollock drained a 3-pointer to reclaim GP's advantage.

With nervous fans from both teams on their feet in the stands, the action quickly turned chaotic as North and Grants Pass pushed the ball in each direction in a transition frenzy.

After Ryan Lucas cut the Tornado's deficit to 46-44 by hitting his first field goal of the night with five minutes to play, Matt Cowell took the game over for Grants Pass with a 3-pointer and two straight layups that made it 53-47 with four minutes to play.

It was really tense and kinda scary for a while there, said Cowell, who suffered through an up-and-down outing at point guard but still joined Pollock with 12 points.

North never threatened from there as Grants Pass refused to give in, scoring on five of its last eight possessions.

They just kept answering, said Hovland, who had a game-high 23 points to go with four steals. They're a good shooting team with a good coach, and they handle their business.

Brian Clifton and Lucas each added eight points for North, with Lucas' struggles against GP continuing with a 2-for-14 night from the field.

The Tornado's loss, combined with South Medford's 50-37 win over Roseburg (8-6 SOC), forces a one-game playoff at 6 p.m. Saturday for North at Roseburg to determine the SOC's third and fourth seeds.

In sizing up Saturday's matchup, Hovland said North should be able to build on the confidence gained by pushing GP to the limit Thursday night.

We took a big step tonight by fighting back, said the junior. Hopefully we can go up to Roseburg and show them what we didn't show them before.

North and Roseburg split the regular-season series, with the Tornado posting a 53-47 double-overtime win in Medford and the Indians scoring an 82-64 win on their home court.

South Medford automatically advances to the Class 4A state tournament as the SOC's top seed at 13-1 in conference, while Grants Pass is No. 2. The Cavemen will play host to a third-round playoff game on March 8, with the winner advancing to the tournament in Portland.

We got the No. — seed three years ago and went two-and-out, and the last two years we've ended up placing with the No. 2 seed, said Mahr, undeterred by the second-place standing. We're not going to take anything for granted though.

GRANTS PASS (64) ' Mahr 14, Cowell 12, Pollock 12, Heater 8, R. Davidson 6, Higgins 4, Chamberlain 4, Lathen 2, Dastrup 2. Totals: 24-45 12-13 64.

NORTH MEDFORD (53) ' Hovland 23, Clifton 8, Lucas 8, Ryan 6, Herrera 5, Running 3, Timmerman 0, Thiesen 0, DeLine 0, Fuller 0, Strahm 0, Wehage 0. Totals: 20-57 7-18 53.

Grants Pass...............................17 11 13 23 ' 64

North Medford..............................6 9 21 17 ' 53

3-point goals ' Grants Pass 4-11 (Cowell 2, Heater 1, Pollock 1), North Medford 6-14 (Hovland 4, Clifton 2).

JV score ' North Medford 58, Roseburg 50.

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