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Waldron keys Tornado rally

Senior post Tylor Waldron sat on the bench during the second half of Tuesday's game against Sheldon and could only watch as a defensive switch by Sheldon took North Medford out of its rhythm and allowed the Irish to pull ahead of the sixth-ranked Black Tornado boys basketball team.

Finally given a chance to make a difference in the fourth quarter, the 6-foot-1 reserve did just that.

Waldron sparked a Tornado uprising with six points and one assist during a near-perfect fourth quarter by North, and his teammates took it from there to beat Sheldon going away, 67-56, for a key Southwest Conference victory.

"We were being really tentative against their matchup zone and that's why Ty Waldron was so huge," said North Medford coach Scott Plankenhorn. "He came in and decided to take the post spot and just attack it. Once he did that, all of a sudden the confidence comes back for the kids, the ball starts rotating and defensive intensity rises, and we go on one heckuva run in the fourth quarter."

The Black Tornado (15-4, 8-1 SWC) outscored Sheldon 31-17 over the final eight minutes, connecting on 11 of 12 shots from the field and 7 of 8 from the foul line. North's only miss of the quarter from the field came when Danny Berger tried to slam home a pass off the backboard by Michael Williams on a fastbreak.

"That was just one heckuva fourth quarter," said Plankenhorn, whose team has now won eight straight and 12 of its last 13. "I don't know if you can play better than that."

Plankenhorn said he certainly couldn't have asked for more from Waldron, whose interior play allowed North to erase a six-point deficit in the fourth. All six of Waldron's points and his lone assist came during an 18-5 run by the Tornado that turned a 44-38 deficit into a 56-49 lead with 2:45 to play.

Waldron, who was held scoreless in the game to that point, said he was able to sit back and learn the chink in Sheldon's armor simply by following the action from the sideline.

"Just sitting on the bench, a lot of observations are made," said Waldron, who had been in the starting lineup until eight games ago. "You could see that a lot of us were not being as aggressive as what we would be in practice. I just remembered that and went in there with the thought in my head to just be aggressive."

Waldron didn't hesitate on his first touch of the fourth quarter, scoring from the paint to cut North's deficit to 44-40. After Jordan Ellis and Michael Williams each knocked down 3-pointers to put the Tornado back in the lead, Waldron answered another Ellis basket with a pair of free throws and a running hook shot to offset five Irish points.

Berger then scored off one of Williams' five assists, and Waldron rifled a pass from halfcourt to Tim Budavari-Jasper for a lay-in to cap the frenzied run.

Sheldon (7-11, 4-5) failed to come any closer after that, and coach Ron Lampe couldn't help but lament what might have been for an Irish team that kept hindering its own cause with turnovers and defensive lapses.

"It's usually a two- or three-minute stretch where we get breakdowns and that becomes the ballgame," said Lampe, whose team missed out on an upset of fifth-ranked South Medford last Saturday in similar circumstances. "We go from controlling the ballgame to trying to play catch-up at the end because we just don't take care of the ball."

The Irish committed 14 turnovers compared to 11 by the Tornado, and managed to convert only 40 percent of their shots from the field (21-for-52) compared to 51 percent by North (25-for-49, including 7-for-13 from 3-point range).

Sheldon senior Trevor Clemo poured in 25 points and added seven rebounds to lead all scorers, while North countered with double-digit scoring nights from Ellis (19), Berger (15) and Josh Pecktol (12), who also had six rebounds and two blocked shots.

Budavari-Jasper added seven points and seven rebounds, and Williams had eight points and five steals for the Tornado.

Still, it was clear to players like Ellis that the key to Tuesday's win was Waldron's inspired play in the fourth quarter.

"It's a great thing to see someone who didn't get what they wanted in the first half to come back and fight for it in the second half," said Ellis. "Him coming off the bench with a spark was the key to our win."

The victory over third-place Sheldon was especially vital for North Medford as it bids to gain its highest seed in the state playoffs in a decade.

"This was another separation game for us as far as those top couple spots in the league are concerned," said Plankenhorn. "We have another one Friday night against South Eugene. If we can win these two at home and take care of ourselves, we're really in position for one of those top two spots for sure, and that's a big step for this program."

SHELDON (56) — Clemo 25, Reynolds 9, White 7, Higgins 5, Wellman 4, Pinz 6, Garcia 0, Davis 0. Totals: 21-52 10-11 56.

NORTH MEDFORD (67) — Ellis 19, Berger 15, Pecktol 12, Williams 8, Budavari-Jasper 7, Waldron 6, Maurer 0, McLemore 0, Barlow 0. Totals: 25-49 10-15 67.

Sheldon 10 16 13 17 — 56

North Medford 18 9 9 31 — 67

3-point goals — Sheldon 4-13 (Clemo 2, Higgins 1, Reynolds 1), North Medford 7-13 (Ellis 4, Budavari-Jasper 1, Berger 1, Williams 1).

JV score — Sheldon 68, North Medford 52.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com

North Medford’s Jordan Ellis drives hard to the basket past Sheldon’s Tito Garcia in the first quarter of Tuesday’s Southwest Conference game.