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Teams use state tourney as learning experience

Wins weren't exactly piling up during last week's Class 6A state tournament, with the North Medford and South Medford boys basketball teams combining with the South Medford girls to go 1-6.

One would consider that largely a forgettable experience, but that wasn't the case through four days at the Rose Garden in Portland. Here's a couple last thoughts on the week that was:

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NORTH MEDFORD'S BOYS came away with the most positive feeling of all the local entries and the lone trophy, a fifth-place honor for the second time in four years.

The Black Tornado played well in earning a quarterfinal win, then may have played even better in back-to-back losses to eventual runner-up Westview and third-place Central Catholic.

"You wouldn't think that (we'd be happy) just because you lost but it's just the way that we played and competed," North head coach Scott Plankenhorn said after losing the second and final game against the Rams. "We were down big and could've easily went away against the No. 2 team in the state. To see how hard we played and competed, it's just awesome."

The best part for North Medford fans is that the bulk of the roster is in line to return next season. Replacing the senior intangibles provided by Jared Knox, Michael Osmanski and Marcus Ellis won't be easy, but the ingredients are there to make another splash in the 2011-12 season.

"We have a great future ahead of us," North Medford junior Chris Faust said Saturday. "We have three returning starters and the guys coming off the bench are going to become starters and they're great players, too. We're just going to have a great year next year, I can feel it."

Faust and 6-foot-3 junior post Jordan Browne-Moore were the headliners during the week for a team built on balanced and unselfish play. Both were prominent figures when the tournament's cumulative statistics were released Sunday, along with an appearance by junior point guard Derek Mautz.

Standing a lanky 6-2, Faust is a wing that spent the season in the low post to fill a void for the Tornado and, along with Browne-Moore, fared remarkably well despite being outsized at every turn. Faust ranked first in field goal percentage at the tournament (.679 on 19-for-28 shooting) and was second to Westview's Austin Kuemper (20-for-40) in field goals made. Faust's 24 points against Central Catholic tied for the best individual performance in the eight-team tourney.

Faust also tied for fifth in points scored (43) and sixth in scoring average (14.3). In rebounding, he ranked sixth overall with 24, including tied for fourth with eight offensive rebounds and tied for fifth with 16 defensive rebounds.

His experience not only provided added confidence for his senior season, it showed him where improvement needed to be made.

"I need to get in the weight room, that's for sure," Faust said with a laugh. "It was all just a great learning experience, really. I've just got to come back next year and bring everything I know to the floor, as well as some things I've got to work on in the offseason."

Browne-Moore led the tournament with 35 rebounds, including a tourney-best 15 on the offensive end. His 19 rebounds against West Linn provided the biggest buzz during the quarterfinals. As someone who really stepped up his play in the last month of the season, Browne-Moore also showed surprisingly soft touch from the perimeter during North's tournament run.

"Jordan has great heart; I love that kid," said Faust. "It's just great to have him as the main post. He just works so hard out there."

Mautz's 19-point performance against West Linn tied for fourth in terms of individual output, and he added positive moments against Westview and Central Catholic but will likely need to shore up his consistency if North is going to contend again next year.

Perimeter shooting will be a focus in the offseason, since that was the Tornado's Achilles' heel at different points of the season and the loss of Knox and Osmanski cuts into their ability to stretch the defense. Junior Trey Garfas is a prime candidate to fill that void since he's shown a willingness to shoot 3-pointers, while sophomore Oshea Bailey should provide utility guard play similar to Ellis.

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HAVING PLAYERS RETURN isn't the issue for the South Medford girls, it's getting them to show a little more maturity and confidence when faced with adversity. The Panthers were by far the youngest and least experienced team in the 6A girls tourney, and unfortunately played as such.

Watching top-tier teams like Jesuit, Clackamas, Oregon City, et al., the difference in play was obvious. While those squads were confident in their sets and attacked opponents at every turn, the Panthers played a little more tentatively and a lot less trusting. Too often offensive schemes were ignored for one-on-one efforts that paid little reward.

"This isn't the time to be trying something new, it's the time to be working on — and doing — what we're really good at," junior 6-5 post Tess Picknell said after South's opening loss to eventual champion Jesuit.

The Panthers wrapped up their first tournament experience since 2002 by ranking last in scoring average (42 points), field goal percentage (.300) and 3-point field goal percentage (.103) and next-to-last in points allowed (60 ppg).

Picknell provided a bright spot with a tournament-best eight blocked shots against Tigard and 11 overall, and her 11 rebounds per game ranked second overall.

The Panthers return their entire starting lineup save for senior Hanna Curtius, who will likely be replaced by up-and-coming freshman Ashley Bolston. The losses, however, won't be nearly as important as the gains made in the offseason. Learning to work together a little more and taking that next step in confidence and leadership, especially for sophomore standouts Yaremi Mejia and Kylie Towry, will be pivotal.

Picknell will also need to do her fair share of work in ballhandling. Too often she fumbled away the ball when trying to put it on the floor or simply in trying to receive passes from her teammates.

The future most certainly is bright for the Panther girls, but only through dedicated efforts this offseason.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry