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North faces similar foe in Tualatin

The fifth-ranked North Medford girls basketball team may as well be staring into a mirror when it tips off against No. 4 Tualatin at 6:30 tonight in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament.

Tualatin is very similar, very comparable to us, says third-year Black Tornado coach Tim Karrick, making his first trip to the eight-team tournament and the school's first since 1998. They like to push the ball and score in transition. Like us, they press after a make or miss, and they play the full 94 feet like we do.

The winner of tonight's game moves on to face either top-ranked and unbeaten Southridge or third-ranked Lakeridge and reigning player-of-the-year Jill Harmon.

The Timberwolves (23-3), the No. 2 seed from the Pac-9 Conference, and the Southern Oregon Conference co-champion Tornado (24-3) are both well-prepared for tournament competition.

That may come in handy with tourney favorites Southridge, Lakeridge and second-ranked Oregon City possibly looming on the horizon.

— Tualatin, like North, defeated Lake Oswego and, again like North, played Lakeridge tough before losing. The Timberwolves also own two victories over then-No. 6 Lincoln and 10th-ranked Central Catholic.

Tualatin, which averages 70 points per game, gets its offense from a number of different players.

Athletic junior all-league posts Kate DePaepe and Kristin Hein are the main benefactors of the Timberwolves' fastbreak offense.

But guards Katie Foiles and Madison Mendezona also fit in well in the up-tempo style.

Everyone on the floor for them can score, says Karrick. They're very athletic and they take advantage of that by running and playing full court.

They probably run a little more than we do since we've slowed things down a little to take the pressure off without Kailey (Bostwick).

The Black Tornado will continue to rely on protecting the ball on offense and wreaking havoc with its stingy defense, a recipe that's been successful since losing senior floor general Bostwick to a season-ending knee injury last Saturday.

Bostwick, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during a victory over Ashland in a seeding game, will wait to have surgery until after the tournament so she can travel with the team.

I think the girls have played exceptional since Kailey went down, says Karrick. We beat three quality teams to get here.

We still have some pretty good players without Kailey.

North's team defense has been the main factor in punching its ticket to the Elite Eight.

The Tornado has limited its last three opponents ' Ashland, Glencoe and Lake Oswego ' to an average of 36 points per contest.

I've been very impressed with how we've picked it up on defense, says Karrick. Of course there's going to be a little drop-off (offensively) when you lose a three-year starter, but the girls have done an amazing job on the defensive end.

Sophomore wing Megan Ross has shined the brightest since Bostwick's injury, averaging 12.5 points per game over the last three outings.

Senior posts Michelle Westermann and Mellisa Eastwold have also cranked it up on the offensive side in the postseason.

Senior guard Caitlin Seeley and freshman reserve-turned-starting point guard Whitney Hodnett have carried a majority of the load in ballhandling duties.

Seeley has also been a key in North's defensive resurgence.

Caitlin's been an unsung hero, says Karrick. She's really picked it up on defense and has taken some of the pressure away from Whitney at point.

She's a very smart, gritty kid that does a lot of the dirty work.

Something North will need plenty of in the double-elimination tournament.

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4483 or e-mail .