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Tornado breaks away from Canby

Erica Schultz is enjoying her senior basketball season at North Medford too much to let up now that the Class 6A state playoffs have arrived.

The 5-foot-11 standout found another gear Wednesday night and, in the process, helped the seventh-ranked Black Tornado cruise to a 56-41 victory over Canby in the first-round affair.

Playing with the focus and determination of someone unwilling to let her team fail, Schultz tallied 19 points, 13 rebounds and four steals in a remarkable all-around performance.

"I just wanted to make sure that if it was our last game, that I went out with a bang and I didn't regret not giving my all," said Schultz, who also helped thwart Canby's full-court pressure with her dribbling and passing. "I felt like I left everything out on the court tonight, and that's exactly what I wanted to do."

Making her numbers even more impressive was the fact that Schultz effectively negated Canby's top player — 6-foot senior post Julianne Erbe — for three quarters. Erbe managed just four points by halftime and scored five of her 11 with the game essentially in hand in the fourth.

"She had a very tough task on the defensive end and the fact that she could play that well on defense and still have enough energy to do what she did offensively was incredible," said North Medford coach Tim Karrick. "She was determined and just stepped up tonight."

The reward for such an effort will be a second-round date at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday against Redmond at North Medford High. The winner advances to the Class 6A state tournament at the Chiles Center in Portland. Redmond outlasted Gresham 50-47 in overtime in other action Wednesday.

North Medford (21-5) appeared to control the action in the first quarter against Canby (15-10), but only had a 13-10 lead to show for it after eight minutes.

The Tornado lead was 15-14 when it finally figured out how to counter the Cougars' trapping defense following every rebound or made basket. Using Canby's aggressiveness against it, North Medford sent players breaking down court for long outlet passes that resulted in three key layins for a 25-16 lead.

"When they have two people up there pressing the rebounder, you have a wide-open girl that's running down the court," said Schultz. "We just had to chuck it down there and we had so many open layins."

Canby also proved to be its own worst enemy, going cold from the field during a four-minute span that included five straight one-shot efforts. The Cougars made only 3 of 12 shots in the second quarter (25 percent) and converted only 18-for-49 (37 percent) for the game.

"We just really struggled to put the ball in the hole," said Canby coach Heather Roberts.

"I don't think we moved the ball quick enough to where we needed to be and didn't attack enough," she added. "Normally our outside shooters can hit something, but we were just cold. It was an unfortunate situation, but they did a nice job defensively."

The key component of that defense was Schultz's ability to deny low-post entries to Erbe, and also get great backside help from Whitney Hodnett, Jaci Abeloe, McKenzie Smith and Kacie Whitehead.

"In the playoffs it comes down to defense," said Karrick. "You've got to be able to get stops, and I think that tonight was the best defensive effort we've put forth for a while and really that was the key for us. I think they were pretty frustrated on the offensive end and it created some opportunities for us in transition."

North Medford built a 27-16 lead by intermission and never allowed Canby to cut into its double-digit advantage. Dixon was instrumental in preventing any runs by the Cougars with her near-flawless work at point guard. The 5-8 sophomore finished with seven points, five assists and only three turnovers.

"When you come and play that kind of pressure defense and you only have three turnovers, that's huge," said Karrick. "That is just flat-out phenomenal."

Dixon also was joined by Kellie Satterfield and Schultz in doing an efficient job of setting up teammates for 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 opportunities once they weaved through the Cougar pressure. Abeloe benefitted the most from their efforts, scoring layins on three straight trips downcourt.

"I think she went from two points to 10 points in like two minutes," said Schultz of the surge.

Canby tried in vain to catch up from that point, but simply couldn't come up with the defensive stops needed to slow the Tornado. North scored on 11 of its 13 possessions in the fourth quarter.

"We couldn't trade baskets with them at that point, and that's what we ended up doing," said Roberts. "They're too good to play catch-up with."

Abeloe had four rebounds to go with her 10 points, while Jana Parker added nine points and eight rebounds and Hodnett had six points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists.

"When we play as a team, we go so much farther in our games," said Schultz. "When everyone's seeing the court and is focused and aggressive, that's what happens for us out there."

CANBY (41) — Erbe 11, Martin 11, Hofer 10, McGraw 5, Fowler 4, Evans 0, Myatt 0, McDonnell 0. Totals: 18-49 2-6 41.

NORTH MEDFORD (56) — Schultz 19, Abeloe 10, Parker 9, Dixon 7, Hodnett 6, Smith 4, Satterfield 1, Egge 0, Whitehead 0, Gall 0. Totals: 21-51 14-22 56.

Canby 10 6 7 18 — 41

North Medford 13 14 9 20 — 56

3-point goals — Canby 3-10 (Hofer 2, McGraw 1), North Medford 0-4.

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

North Medford’s Karissa Dixon and Canby’s Lindsay Hofer fight for a loose ball during the first half of Wednesday’s playoff game. - Jamie Lusch