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Panthers prevail in battle of SOC powers

ROSEBURG ' If there's one thing that gets South Medford's attention, it's a challenge.

Roseburg's boys basketball team supplied that Friday night with its perfect Southern Oregon Conference record and standout post Seth Bauman, who entered the tilt averaging a conference-best 18 points in six SOC wins.

Thanks to a return to basics by the second-ranked Panthers, neither challenge held up by night's end as South dominated the Indians 62-47 in front of about 2,000 fans at Stewart Robertson Memorial Gym.

We like getting up for a game and playing hard in a great atmosphere like this, said South senior Craig Johnson, who posted game-highs in points (23) and rebounds (9). This was fun.

The win helped South (16-1) accomplish a perfect first half to the SOC season at 7-0, while Roseburg dropped to 12-5 overall and 6-1 in conference.

— Johnson and senior point guard Ryan Fiegi took it upon themselves to set the tone for Friday's game early, with both pushing the action inside to put the Indians on their heels. The duo combined for nine points in the first 2&

189; minutes of play to carry South to a 10-2 lead, and forced the 6-foot-7 Bauman to the bench with two quick fouls.

The Indians never truly recovered, falling behind 34-18 by intermission and 49-27 after three quarters.

They went on a little run on us in the first quarter and we never really went on a run ourselves to get back, said Roseburg senior Kerry Hall, who had a team-high 12 points.

After picking up his second foul, Bauman remained sidelined for the rest of the half, and essentially was a non-factor in a game expected to be a clash of the titans between he and Johnson. Bauman's first basket of the game came one minute into the fourth quarter, and he finished with only four points and one rebound.

Roseburg head coach Mike Pardon said losing his star center early hurt, but didn't use that as an excuse for Friday's loss.

They just do so many things well, I don't know if that would have mattered, said Pardon. It throws off a little rhythm (without Bauman), but do I think that would have helped us? I don't know. We would've had a better chance stopping some of their inside players, but he could've picked up those fouls three minutes later. It's just part of the game and you have to play with it.

Roseburg senior Kevan Gerretsen and junior John Malone stepped up in Bauman's absence, but Johnson was not going to be denied Friday.

Tonight was a big matchup so I really came out with a little bit of extra fire, said Johnson, who reached a new high in SOC scoring after entering the game averaging 16.3 per contest. I really wanted to play hard and things happened for me thanks to my teammates.

Fiegi scored seven of his 15 points in the first quarter as South jumped ahead 17-9. For the rest of the game, the senior leader did a nice job of picking his moments and directing the offense inside to Johnson.

There's no question Craig was truly on a mission tonight, said South head coach Dennis Murphy. Our guys sensed that and they got him the ball.

Fiegi finished with six assists, while Brent Johnson added nine points and four rebounds and Kyle Singler five points and five rebounds as the Panthers got back to what they do best.

This game really resembled the first part of the season when we were playing our best, said Craig Johnson. I think we really came back to playing unselfish and playing very hard on defense.

South limited Roseburg to nine points in each of the first three quarters, and the Indians converted only 16 of 44 attempts from the field overall.

We didn't shoot the ball real well, but they played good defense so you have to give them credit, said Pardon. Dennis does a great job and that's a very, very nice team that he's got.

They've got weapons all over and you're just hoping to hold on when you play them, added the coach. I thought we played hard and kept our composure; they just kept playing hard, too. They're a great team.

The Panthers connected on 24 of 46 shots from the field, but let Roseburg close the gap with a poor outing from the free-throw line. South was only — of 8 from the charity stripe in the fourth, including three straight misses in a one-and-one situation. Those efforts came on the heels of a technical foul on Fiegi that set off a 6-0 run to give Roseburg some hope at 55-40. The 6-5 senior was whistled for slapping the backboard on a blocked shot attempt with 4:15 to go in the fourth.

It was a little bit shaky again at the end, Johnson said, referring to Tuesday's 61-60 win at Grants Pass in which South squandered a 14-point lead in the second half. We're going to have to fix that.

The rest certainly appears on track.

That's as good of a South team as I've ever seen, said Pardon, the 11th-year Roseburg head coach.

Murphy said his Panthers used Friday night's road tilt as a gut check as they set their sights on the second half of the SOC schedule.

We put ourselves in the driver seat, the South coach said of his team's fourth road win. We said in the beginning of the season the SOC championship comes through Medford. They're going to have to beat us if they're going to win it, and now they're going to have to do that at our house.

SOUTH MEDFORD (62) ' C. Johnson 23, Fiegi 15, B. Johnson 9, Berkey 6, Singler 5, Adams 4, Hagert 0, Hunter 0. Totals: 24-46 10-17 62.

ROSEBURG (47) ' Hall 12, Behrens 8, Smith 8, Davis 6, Gerretsen 5, Bauman 4, Malone 4, Frazer 0, Jeremiah 0, Juungmann 0. Totals: 16-44 11-12 47.

South Medford........................17 17 15 13 ' 62

Roseburg...................................9 9 9 20 ' 47

3-point goals ' South Medford 4 (Berkey 2, Fiegi 1, Adams 1), Roseburg 4 (Behrens 2, Hall 2). Technical fouls ' Fiegi.

JV score ' Roseburg 51, South Medford 48.

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