Season ends on chilly note for Panthers
PORTLAND — Coaches preach to not let one loss spill over to the next game and create another, but that's exactly what happened to the South Medford boys basketball team Thursday in the consolation semifinals of the Class 6A state tournament.
Still smarting from a 54-51 loss to No. 3 Westview the night before, the Panthers were out of sync early and often against West Linn in the morning contest at the relatively empty Rose Garden.
The unranked Lions used an 8-0 run to close the third quarter and gain separation, then held off the fourth-ranked Panthers for a 68-60 triumph. West Linn advances to play Lincoln in Saturday's game that will decide fourth or sixth places, while South Medford joins fellow Southern Oregon Hybrid co-champion Roseburg as the only teams to leave town without a trophy.
"Last night after the loss (to Westview), we felt like we gave it everything we could out there and came up a little bit short," said Panther senior Josh Havird. "I feel like today we were kinda still down about last night and it showed in our play."
Havird opened the game with a 3-pointer off the tip from Tevyn Mercer and a pass from Kevin Thibeault, and Mercer added a 3-pointer moments later to give South a 6-2 advantage.
Whether it was the promise of more to come or, later, simply out of desperation, the Panthers remained fixed on the 3-point line, and that ultimately proved costly. South finished 10-for-31 from beyond the arc, including 4-for-15 in the second half against the Lions' 3-2 matchup zone.
"Often those were not good shots to take," said South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy, whose team was 12-for-23 inside the arc. "We were just happy to settle for whatever it happened to be. We thought this was the first opportunity, not the best opportunity but the first opportunity, and consequently that just comes back and haunts you."
Havird paced the Panthers (22-6) with 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting — 4-for-11 on 3-pointers — while Nick Shanklin-Rice provided a boost off the bench with 13 points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes. Mercer added 12 points and nine rebounds, while fellow senior Tyler Marshall hit two 3s in the first quarter and had all seven of his points in the first half.
"I'm awfully proud of the minutes Tyler Marshall gave us, especially in the first half when he had a couple big 3s to keep us in it," said Murphy, whose team trailed 16-10 before those baskets. "Nick Shanklin played awfully well off the bench, too, and we needed those sparks."
West Linn (14-15) played with the lead for the bulk of the contest, using the dribble-drive prowess of senior point guard Mario Shonkwiler to break down the defense and find teammates for open looks at the basket. The 5-foot-9 Shonkwiler appeared to occasionally palm and carry the ball, and the Panthers and their fans pleaded for calls that simply didn't come from the referees.
Such no-calls seemed to frustrate South's defenders and gave rise to sloppy play on the offensive end.
"At some point, you just need to quit complaining about it and just go play," said Murphy.
South had both point guards Mike Brassel and Matt Retzlaff and 6-2 post Thibeault on the bench with three fouls in the second quarter and wound up sending the Lions to the free-throw line 17 times in the first half. West Linn was only able to convert eight charity shots.
The foul discrepancy didn't change in the second half, with West Linn finishing 18-for-33 from the line and South going 6-for-11.
The Panthers pulled within two points at 47-45 after back-to-back 3-pointers by Shanklin-Rice in the third quarter. The Lions answered, however, with a second-chance trey by Shonkwiler and five more points to close the quarter with a 55-45 lead.
Another trey and a lay-in by Shanklin-Rice off a Havird assist helped close the gap to 55-51, but C.J. Sitton answered with a basket off a Shonkwiler assist. That two-possession advantage held true over the next few series as the Panthers missed 3-pointer after 3-pointer.
"When we needed to make a bucket to cut it to two (points), we just couldn't do it," said Murphy.
West Linn certainly gave South plenty of chances, going scoreless for the opening three minutes of the fourth quarter and then having another two-minute drought before finally chipping away at the foul line.
"We struggled down the stretch and made a bunch of bonehead plays," said West Linn head coach Eric Viuhkola. "If they would've made some shots and converted, we would've been in trouble."
Brassel picked up a technical foul, which qualified as his fifth personal foul, with 2:06 to play and South down 61-55. After two Shonkwiler free throws, he was 9 of 14 overall for half of his 18 points, Shanklin-Rice scored on two straight jumpers to keep his team in it at 63-59 with 1:06 to go.
West Linn's next possession proved to be the most critical, with Keith Baggetta drawing a foul on a made basket. He missed on the three-point conversion, but Riley Wilkerson tipped the rebound out and the Lions were able to regroup and run more clock before Retzlaff was tabbed with his fifth foul. Two Shonkwiler free throws built the lead back up to 67-59 with 44.9 seconds to go to eliminate any hopes of a Panther comeback.
Following the game, South couldn't help but return its attention to Wednesday night's quarterfinal loss.
"It's tough coming off a big loss like that," said Shanklin-Rice. "Emotions were high last game and it's kinda hard to re-create what you saw yesterday. It just wasn't there in the first half. We still battled a little bit, but the energy wasn't there like it was yesterday."
For the Panthers, No. 2 in the state power rankings, that meant there is no tomorrow for a squad with nine seniors.
"After a good season like we put together, it's rough," Havird said of the disappointing finish. "I'm sure everyone's going to be hating it for the next few weeks at least, but there's nothing we can do about it now."
WEST LINN (14-15)
Shonkwiler 3-11 9-14 18, Cokely 0-0 0-0 0, Wilkerson 3-5 1-1 8, Baggetta 5-9 3-6 16, Shearmire 6-8 1-4 13, Howard 0-1 0-0 0, Sitton 3-5 2-4 8, Kelley 0-1 0-0 0, Hawkins 1-8 2-4 5. Totals: 21-48 18-33 68.
SOUTH MEDFORD (22-6)
Brassel 1-7 0-0 2, Pearson 0-3 0-0 0, Mercer 3-7 5-8 12, Havird 6-15 0-1 16, Thibeault 4-5 0-0 8, Retzlaff 0-1 0-0 0, Shanklin-Rice 5-10 0-0 13, DeCoste 0-0 0-0 0, Marshall 2-5 1-2 7, Singler 1-1 0-0 2, Delaney 0-0 0-0 0, Voss 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-54 6-11 60.
West Linn 18 16 21 13 — 68
South Medford 16 13 16 15 — 60
3-point goals — West Linn 8-20 (Shonkwiler 3-4, Wilkerson 1-3, Baggetta 3-6, Howard 0-1, Sitton 0-2, Kelley 0-1, Hawkins 1-3), South Medford 10-31 (Brassel 0-4, Pearson 0-2, Mercer 1-1, Havird 4-11, Retzlaff 0-1, Shanklin-Rice 3-8, Marshall 2-4). Fouled out — Brassel, Retzlaff. Technical foul — Brassel. Rebounds — West Linn 31 (Hawkins 8), South Medford 35 (Mercer 9). Assists — West Linn 18 (Shonkwiler 8), South Medford 16 (Brassel 5). Turnovers — West Linn 13, South Medford 20. Total fouls — West Linn 13, South Medford 26.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry