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Cavemen rally past North

Matchup zone defense helps Grants Pass overcome cold start to trip Black Tornado

The North Medford boys team played textbook basketball for the first three minutes of Tuesday's Southern Oregon Conference game against Grants Pass.

The Black Tornado sliced and diced the Cavemen's man-to-man defense for a 9-0 lead. Ty Ryan and John Berger hit layups, Berger added a pair of free throws and Kyle Williamson swished a 3-point basket from the baseline during the run.

But then GP went into a matchup zone defense and North Medford scored just 40 points the rest of the way.

Final score: Grants Pass 59, North Medford 49.

That's the best we've run our matchup zone this season, said Grants Pass point guard Jake Dastrup, who pumped in a game-high 19 points and added six assists. When we're running it right, it's hard for teams to tell if we're in a man-to-man or a zone, and tonight we ran it right.

The Cavemen tallied six straight points after changing defenses and took their first lead of the night with 1:33 left in the first period on a steal and layup by cat-quick sophomore guard Craig Dolmage, who caused considerable havoc at the top of the zone.

North Medford managed a 14-12 advantage at the end of the quarter thanks to another Williamson 3-pointer, but the Cavemen went on a 13-7 run in the second period to grab a 25-21 halftime lead.

The visitors from Josephine County tightened up their defense even more in the second half. They went on a 14-4 spree over the first 5:10 of the third quarter in soaring to a 39-25 lead.

Dastrup, a 6-foot-3 senior who is regarded as one of the top guards in the state, had eight points during the run. Dolmage capped it with another steal and layup.

We started the game like we were intimidated and uptight, but once we changed defenses and got a basket or two, we were fine, said Grants Pass coach Bill Cowell, whose team improved to 3-1 in the SOC and 9-5 overall. We got some steals in that third quarter that led to some easy baskets. Craig did a great job of pestering them at the top of the zone.

Three-point baskets by John Barry, Drew Herrera and Williamson to close the third period kept North Medford within striking distance, but back-to-back baskets by senior post Jason Nunnemaker gave Grants Pass its biggest lead of the night at 49-34 with 6:53 to play.

However, Nunnemaker's technical foul for hanging on the rim after missing a dunk with 1:34 to play gave the Tornado a glimmer of hope.

At the time, GP held a 55-43 lead. But Berger sank both technical foul free throws and then drilled a 14-foot jumper after North Medford was handed the ball under its own basket.

Suddenly, it was 55-47 with 1:25 still showing on the clock. GP's Brad Erbe then missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Herrera made a driving layup that made it 55-49 with 49 seconds remaining.

But the composed Dastrup sank four straight free throws in the final 46.3 seconds to secure the win.

We shouldn't have let them back in it like that, but those were some clutch free throws by Dastrup, Cowell said.

Grants Pass shot a respectable 51 percent from the field (23 of 45) and an even more impressive 80 percent from the free-throw line (12 of 15).

The Cavemen also outrebounded North Medford 29-27 and committed just nine turnovers, including a mere two in the second half.

Despite the bad start, I'd have to say this was our best game, Cowell said. We did a lot of good things once we got going.

North Medford, meanwhile, shot just 39.5 percent from the field (19 of 48) and committed 15 turnovers.

We showed again tonight that we're capable of some really good things, but when they went zone, we didn't penetrate the gaps or get the ball to our posts like we should have, said North Medford coach Tim Sam, whose team slipped to 1-3 in the SOC and 4-8 overall. We weren't patient enough.

Williamson led the Tornado with 14 points and five rebounds before fouling out with 1:57 to play. Berger added 10 points, and Herrera had nine points and seven assists.

GRANTS PASS (59) ' Dastrup 19, Nunnemaker 17, Berg 8, Dolmage 7, Erbe 6, Tocher 2, Cowell 0, Ingledue 0. Totals: 23-45 12-15 59.

NORTH MEDFORD (49) ' Williamson 14, Berger 10, Herrera 9, Running 7, Ryan 6, Barry 3, Stroh 0, Eubank 0. Totals: 19-48 5-7 49.

Grants Pass...............................12 13 20 14 ' 59

North Medford............................14 7 13 15 ' 49

3-point goals ' Grants Pass — (Dolmage 1), North Medford 6 (Williamson 4, Barry 1, Herrera 1). Fouled out ' Williamson. Technical fouls ' Nunnemaker.

JV score ' Grants Pass 48, North Medford 34.

North Medford senior John Berger (24) drives to the basket past Grants Pass' Brad Erbe on Tuesday. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli