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Havird's clutch play lifts South

When you're a shooter, sometimes the best way to regain your touch is to keep shooting the basketball.

It also doesn't hurt to change things up a little to get a different perspective.

South Medford senior wing Josh Havird applied both philosophies Friday night and each paid dividends in an action-packed game against Grant in the second round of the Class 6A boys basketball state playoffs at South Medford High.

Havird shook off a wayward first half from the field to come up clutch for his team time and again in the fourth quarter and help the fourth-ranked Panthers turn back Grant 70-55 and earn a spot in the eight-team state tournament at the Rose Garden in Portland.

The 6-foot-3 standout, who led the Southern Oregon Hybrid in scoring, drilled four 3-pointers and scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to fend off a rally by the Generals (12-14). Havird also finished with five rebounds and two assists.

"The second half we made a run but the Havird kid just shot the ball unbelievably," said Grant head coach Tony Broadous. "We were on him with hands up, it wasn't like he was wide open. He just hit big shots. It was a very impressive effort by South Medford."

The win helped erase memories of a year ago, when the Panthers lost their playoff opener in the final game at the old South Medford High and missed out on a potential ninth straight trip to the state tourney. To Havird and company, nine out of 10 isn't all bad.

"With nine seniors on the roster, coming into this season we made this one of our goals," Havird said of advancing to the final site quarterfinals. "It's probably the biggest accomplishment we've made this year. It feels really good going to the Rose Garden with nine seniors on the squad, and the three younger guys are just as much of a part of it."

The Panthers (22-4) will open the state tournament at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday against third-ranked Westview, which was a 68-51 winner over Thurston on Friday.

Senior post Kevin Thibeault chipped in with 11 points and seven rebounds, while senior wing Sean Pearson added 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals, senior point guard Mike Brassel added nine points and three assists and senior post Tevyn Mercer had six rebounds and four assists.

In all, eight different Panthers registered an assist, 10 had at least one rebound and nine reached the scorebook in another efficient effort. South Medford led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter and took a 33-18 advantage into halftime.

"Grant's a good team and we knew that coming into it," said Thibeault. "We just had to play harder than them, smarter than them and had to play like we could. We really came out with intensity and played like we wanted to."

For the better part of three quarters, Havird's role in the outcome appeared in doubt. He missed his first five shots of the game — four of which were 3-pointers — before finally connecting from deep with 4:43 to go in the second quarter. Two possessions later he got a return pass after another missed trey, only this time he faked another deep try and instead swooped to the hoop for a driving lay-in.

The ability to see two shots fall in quick succession and in various forms seemed to fire up Havird and, after a 1-for-2 effort from the field in the third quarter, he heated up in just the right moment for the Panthers.

Grant came out of the locker room on fire, converting 10 of 11 shots in the third quarter — five by junior Tre Battle — to pull within seven points a 46-39. When senior Adam Newell hit a tough turnaround on the baseline to open the fourth quarter, the Generals suddenly trailed by only five points in a game that hadn't been that close since six minutes into the contest.

"They pulled within five and it opened our eyes," said Havird. "We didn't want to lose this last game at home."

The senior immediately responded with a four-point play, draining a 3-pointer on the left wing and knocking down a foul shot after being run over by Grant's L.J. Sly-Cain.

Battle answered with a pair of free throws but Brassel found Havird for another 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, and another shot beyond the arc from Havird allowed South to build a 56-45 cushion with 6:11 to play.

A basket by Pearson and another 3-pointer by Havird negated a five-point stretch by Grant, and a three-point play by DaVonte Jacob was instantly nullified by a three-point play by Havird following an almost full-court pass by Mercer with two minutes to go.

The Generals cut into their deficit for the final time with a driving basket by Battle, who finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, but that came with 1:44 on the clock. Nick Shanklin-Rice calmly drained a pair of free throws and Pearson capped off an amazing play in which Havird grabbed a rebound and in the same motion whirled a backward, over-the-head pass downcourt to his teammate.

The outcome was essentially sealed by then, with Pearson tacking on two more free throws to close out the scoring as the senior starters began to exit the court.

"We had little mountain tops and valleys in the third quarter," said South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy. "We just really said, 'You guys have got to come out and play and get after these guys,' and they really did in the fourth quarter."

"Obviously Josh stepped up big," he added. "Seniors are supposed to do that and we're glad he did. It really was a great effort on all our parts."

Havird said he felt great in pregame warm-ups and seemed to be hitting on all cylinders, making it that much more confusing when the ball wasn't hitting the mark.

"Murph was just saying, 'Ya know what, they're not falling in the first half so just focus up on the second half and we'll do the rest and get you the ball in open spots,'" said Havird of some in-game advice. "They did and I relaxed a little bit and it felt good in the second half."

For his teammates, it was just a matter of time before they knew Havird would finally find his range.

"We know Josh is going to make his shots when he gets open," said Thibeault. "We just told him to keep shooting it. Until then we just had to put the ball into the basket and just wait for him to make his shots like we knew he could. The rest of us just contributed until that happened."

Junior Matt Retzlaff was pivotal throughout with steady play at point guard, finishing with three points and three assists, while Luke DeCoste hit a couple clutch shots and pulled down two rebounds and fellow senior Tyler Marshall added an energy boost with his play to close out the first quarter.

GRANT (55) — Battle 22, Newell 11, Patino 9, Jacob 5, Canda 5, Sly-Cain 2, Friedman 1, McGlynn 0, Warren 0, Fultz 0, Pinkley 0. Totals: 22-49 9-12 55.

SOUTH MEDFORD (70) — Havird 24, Thibeault 11, Pearson 10, Brassel 9, Shanklin-Rice 5, DeCoste 4, Retzlaff 3, Mercer 2, Marshall 2, Voss 0, Delaney 0, Singler 0. Totals: 25-56 9-13 70.

Grant 8 10 21 16 — 55

South Medford 18 15 13 24 — 70

3-point goals — Grant 2-10 (Patino 1, Canda 1), South Medford 11-25 (Havird 6, Brassel 3, Retzlaff 1, Shanklin-Rice 1). Fouled out — Brassel. Technical foul — Brassel.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-766-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry

South Medford's Kevin Thibeault attempts a shot over Grant's L.J. Sly-Cain on Friday. - Larry Stauth Jr.