Johnson lands SOC's top honor
The South Medford senior post was a catalyst to the Panthers' success in conference play this season
South Medford's Craig Johnson took the Southern Oregon Conference a little by surprise last season.
Affixing a bull's eye to his back didn't do much to slow the 6-foot-4 senior post this season, however, as Johnson was honored recently as the SOC's player of the year in voting by the conference's coaches.
Despite playing on a team with considerable depth and talent, Johnson averaged 15.5 points and 6.3 rebounds in leading the Panthers to their third straight SOC title.
It feels great to have that kind of respect from the coaches, says Johnson, who was a second-team selection last year. I was really excited about being on the all-defensive team, too. That was another big-time honor.
— Both honors proved just how much of an impact Johnson made for South in its undefeated run to the title.
He's a man-child in the middle, South senior point guard Ryan Fiegi says of Johnson. He's just impossible to control. Getting rebounds or defending or whatever, he clogs the middle and that leaves us open on the outside.
Fiegi was joined by North Medford post Ryan Lucas as the only repeat first-team selections. Also named to the SOC's first team were Roseburg senior post Seth Bauman and Grants Pass senior point guard Matt Cowell.
While Johnson may have been voted player of the year, he says the difference between his impact and that of Fiegi's was minimal this season.
It just as easily could have gone to him, Johnson says of the SOC's top honor. Fieg does a great job of setting the tone for us.
For his part, Fiegi thought the voting was on target.
I thought Johnson deserved MVP and I'm honored to be right there behind him, he said.
The 6-5 Fiegi averaged 14.4 points in conference to go with about five assists and two steals per game.
Fieg is really the coach on the court, says South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy, who was named SOC coach of the year for the fifth time. I think he's done a great job of directing us all year.
Murphy was especially pleased that both Johnson and Fiegi were recognized for their hard work and determined play this season.
They've both worked hard in the offseason and made themselves good basketball players, says the 16th-year South coach, and under pressure this year, they've both risen to the occasion when need be.
Bauman, a 6-7 post, led the SOC in scoring, averaging 16.4 points in conference play in leading Roseburg to second place in the SOC with a 10-4 record. Johnson was the SOC's leading scorer in overall games at 17.3 points per game.
Lucas averaged 15.3 points in 13 conference games and 15.7 points overall as North Medford's most consistent threat. The 6-2 post paved the way for the Black Tornado to finish in a third-place tie with Grants Pass at 9-5 in the SOC standings.
The biggest jump among all the first-teamers belonged to Cowell, who was an honorable mention selection last year but took his game up a few notches as a senior.
Any time you get one of your own guys on the (first team), it's great, says GP head coach Bill Cowell. When it's your son and you know how hard he's worked to get to this point, it's really gratifying.
The younger Cowell, a 6-1 point guard, saved his biggest efforts for GP's biggest games, scoring a career-high 24 against South before torching North for 35 points to set up a playoff for the SOC's No. — seed.
Cowell led his team with 14.3 points, six assists and five rebounds per game.
South Medford and Grants Pass each earned five all-conference selections, while North Medford had four.
Joining Johnson and Fiegi was second-team pick Kyle Singler, a 6-7 freshman, and honorable mention selections Andy Hagert, a 6-3 senior, and Isaiah Adams, a 6-3 junior.
Junior Jake Dastrup was named to the second team for Grants Pass and senior Mike Pollock to the third team, with senior teammates Tom Higgins and Wes Lathen named honorable mention.
Besides Lucas, North was recognized with a third-team selection of junior Kyle Williamson and honorable mention nods for juniors Drew Herrera and Ben Running.
Joining Johnson on the SOC's all-defensive team were Hagert, Bauman, Pollock, Klamath Union's Jacob Wynn and Roseburg's Kerry Hall.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR ' Craig Johnson, South Medford.
COACH OF THE YEAR ' Dennis Murphy, South Medford.
HONORABLE MENTION ' Corey Costantino, Jr., Ashland; Logan Bishop, Sr., Ashland; Jay Slezak, Sr., Crater; Mychal Williams, So., Eagle Point; Junior Malgarejo, Sr., Eagle Point; Wes Lathen, Sr., Grants Pass; Tom Higgins, Sr., Grants Pass; Drew Herrera, Jr., North Medford; Ben Running, Jr., North Medford; Andy Hagert, Sr., South Medford; Isaiah Adams, Jr., South Medford.
ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM ' Mike Pollock, Grants Pass; Craig Johnson, South Medford; Kerry Hall, Roseburg; Andy Hagert, South Medford; Seth Bauman, Roseburg; Jacob Wynn, Klamath Union.