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Clean sweep for Panthers

Those "Black Is Back" T-shirts adorned this season by the North Medford faithful have made a bold — and accurate — statement as to the state of affairs these days in the boys basketball program.

Any day now, however, you can probably expect a new fashion statement across town for South Medford fans with their own statement: Blue Never Left.

Playing with passion and poise, the No. 6-ranked Panthers earned a season sweep of the seventh-ranked Black Tornado with a convincing 70-54 triumph before a near-capacity crowd Tuesday at North Medford High.

Sophomore Josh Havird turned in a stellar performance with 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while E.J. Singler added 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for South Medford in the pivotal Southwest Conference matchup.

Mitch Singler added 12 points for the Panthers (16-6, 9-4 SWC), who used the victory to break a second-place tie with the Tornado in the SWC standings.

North Medford, which got a game-high 23 points from Jordan Ellis, dropped to 16-5 overall and 8-5 in league play with two games remaining in the regular season.

"That's as good of a team effort as we've had in terms of getting contributions from everybody," said South Medford coach Dennis Murphy, whose Panthers have won 21 of the past 22 meetings with the Tornado and lead the series 38-14. "Our bench came in and played as well as they have all year."

Mike Brassel added nine points and fellow sophomore Tevyn Mercer had seven points and four rebounds off the bench for South Medford, which led by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter.

"We were very patient tonight," said E.J. Singler. "I thought we executed very well and got open, good shots and played good defense."

North Medford entered the game averaging 66.4 points — good for third-best at the Class 6A level — but was limited to 32 points through three quarters on Tuesday. The Panthers' patience on offense and good transition defense helped slow the Black Tornado, which shot a respectable 22 of 52 from the field but was only 3 of 14 from 3-point range.

South Medford took its first lead at 13-12 on a 3-pointer by Mitch Singler with two minutes to go in the first quarter and followed that with another 3-pointer by Brassel to build a cushion the Panthers never relinquished.

Despite a sluggish start, the Black Tornado still trailed by only nine points heading into halftime, but a 22-8 Panther surge in the third quarter removed all doubt from the final outcome. Six different South players scored at least two points in the third quarter.

"When it comes down to it, they just played harder than we did," said Ellis, who also had four rebounds and two assists. "We didn't make shots, they did."

"For some reason we just don't have the confidence that we usually do, and it always seems to come down to it when we play these guys," added the senior. "We just didn't have confidence in our shots or anything today."

North Medford senior Josh Pecktol suffered his second rough going this year against the Panthers on his home court, scoring his first basket with 5:33 to go in the third quarter and finishing with seven points overall. He entered the game averaging 16.6 points per game.

Tornado junior Michael Levos scored seven of his nine points in the first half and pulled down 10 rebounds to go with three blocks.

Typically a North Medford strength, the Tornado was outrebounded 30-20.

"They just pounded us on the glass and played harder and better than us," said North Medford coach Scott Plankenhorn.

South's dominance in the series was a head-scratcher for Ellis and company Tuesday, with the Black Tornado using a lengthy post-game chat in the locker room to unearth some answers.

"I don't know, maybe a lot of kids are feeling pressure," said Ellis of facing the Panthers, "but I think it just comes down to heart and confidence. We just don't seem to have that edge that we usually do whenever they come here or we go down there."

SOUTH MEDFORD (70) — Havird 21, E.J. Singler 15, M. Singler 12, Brassel 9, Mercer 7, Dellenback-Ouellette 6, Petersen 0, McLaughlin 0, Wallan 0, Pratt 0. Totals: 22-48 19-23 70.

NORTH MEDFORD (54) — Ellis 23, Levos 9, Pecktol 7, Borg 6, Bradshaw 3, Maurer 2, Shipley 2, Faust 2, Formolo 0, Clark 0, Waits 0. Totals: 22-52 7-12 54.

South Medford 20 13 22 15 — 70

North Medford 14 10 8 22 — 54

3-point goals — South Medford 7-14 (M. Singler 2, Havird 2, E.J. Singler 1, Brassel 1, Dellenback-Ouellette 1), North Medford 3-14 (Levos 1, Ellis 1, Bradshaw 1). Technical fouls — Shipley.

JV score — South Medford 62, North Medford 58, OT.

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

South Medford coach Dennis Murphy, right, celebrates the Panthers' win with Mitch Singler on Tuesday.