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South finishes strong

HILLSBORO ' Bring on Jefferson!

After beating its third Metro League team in four days, second-ranked South Medford left the Les Schwab Invitational with the kind of confidence it was hoping to develop from the 16-team boys basketball tournament.

The Panthers defended well, rebounded well, passed well, shot free throws well and showcased the kind of physical toughness that usually makes Portlanders think the Southern Oregon Conference is a football conference.

That's some team, Westview coach Pat Coons said after the Panthers dispatched his Wildcats 71-54 Friday at Liberty High School. They're seven guys deep, they rebound, pass, defend. They've got a great player in Kyle Singler, but the rest of the guys are really good, too.

It's tough to know who you can play off to double somebody else. Yes, we think they're one of the teams to beat for the state title.

— The Panthers are scheduled to return to Portland in three weeks to play at Jefferson, 4-0, which has been ranked in the top three all season.

South, which trailed 12-3 in the first two minutes, ran over the Wildcats, who are 5-2, by making 28 of 52 shots from the field and dishing out 22 assists on those 28 baskets.

Sophomore point guard Michael Harthun had 12 of the 22 assists and added 14 points to support Singler, the junior forward who had 21 points and six rebounds. Senior Kendall Gielow had 12 points and nine rebounds, and senior Myles Daley added 11 points and four steals as the Panthers finished the tourney at 3-1.

We feel really good about what we accomplished here, said senior Brent Johnson, who had seven points and four assists. We played well and got the experience we were hoping for against good teams.

Now we just have to take care of business in conference play.

The Panthers, 8-1 overall, being SOC play Friday at North Medford.

South left Portland having scored 67 or more points in all four games. The Panthers shot 81 percent from the free-throw line and averaged 16.5 assists per game, which led the tournament.

We didn't lose to an Oregon team, Gielow said, and we saw a lot of the teams that will be competing for the state title. We're pretty happy with our play here.

South's lone loss in the tournament came to Reserve Christian of Louisiana, which played in the title game. It won its three games by an average of 23 points.

Westview featured 6-foot-11 sophomore Andy Poling, who carried the Wildcats past defending state champion Jesuit 48-46 on Thursday. The Panthers held him to just seven points by sandwiching him with Johnson, who is 6-7, and Gielow, who is 6-7, or Singler, who is 6-8.

Westview attacked the Panthers with its inside and outside play for the first two minutes, but began hesitating after the Panthers found a playing rhythm, frequently passing up open shots while trying to pound the ball into Poling.

They did a really good job of defending Andy, Coons said. And our other guys didn't step up. I still think if we play well, we can beat South, but we've got to play really well.

Harthun dazzled the crowd of more than 1,000 by pushing the pace of the game and either pulling up for free-throw-line jumpers or passes to streaking teammates. He connected with Singler three times on passes after Singler snuck behind the Westview defense.

That's my game, how I look at how well I've done ' assists, Harthun said. I don't look at how many points I score, but how many assists I've gotten.

I'd much rather see a teammate score than score myself.

The Panthers will meet Jefferson at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Invitational at Jefferson High, Jan. 21. The Demos lost to Lake Oswego in the state semifinals last year and graduated seven seniors, but their coaches and players say this team is playing more as a team.

They are scheduled to play in a three-day tournament in Chicago in January.

If the Demos and Panthers both win their district titles, they wouldn't meet in the state playoffs until the final day of the state tournament, possibly the state title game. So their game next month will likely be billed as something of a state-title preview.

That's going to be a good test for us, Harthun said. They're going to run at me hard, and I see that a lot in summer tournaments. But I think we'll be ready for them. We run a lot in practice, so we're in good shape.

Murphy said he's focused on the SOC games, regardless of what happens in three weeks.

If we get blown out there, that doesn't mean a thing to us, Murphy said. It won't affect our chances of making the state tournament.

WESTVIEW (54) ' Brooks 6, Jones 14, Shepard 7, Clark 8, Poling 7, Wallace 6, Siefken 4, Ooi 0, Cowles 0, Smith 0, Buckles 0, Walters 0. Totals: 21-51 6-11 54.

SOUTH MEDFORD (71) ' Harthun 14, Johnson 7, K. Singler 21, Gielow 12, Daley 11, Stanek 2, E.J. Singler 2, Grimes 2, Anderson 0, DeSimone 0. Totals: 28-52 11-15 71.

Westview....................................16 7 14 17 ' 54

South Medford..........................19 15 18 19 ' 71

3-point goals ' Westview 6 (Brooks 1, Jones 2, Shepard 1, Wallace 2), South Medford 4 (Harthun 2, K. Singler 1, Daley 1). Technical fouls ' K. Singler.