Scrappy North falls in semis
PORTLAND — Whatever North Medford may lack on the eye test during pre-game warm-ups, the seventh-ranked Black Tornado boys certainly make up for in terms of courage and tenacity.
Facing a bigger, stronger Westview team that features 6-foot-9 senior post Austin Kuemper, North Medford gave its opponent all it could handle Friday night before eventually succumbing 57-44 in the semifinals of the Class 6A state tournament.
The third-ranked Wildcats (21-6) were able to pull away from the Black Tornado with a handful of scoring surges, but North Medford (20-6) was able to reel them back in time and again until a final push midway through the fourth quarter.
"We tried as hard as we could, they just executed better than us," said North senior Jared Knox. "Westview's a tough team and they just played better than us today."
Friday's outcome marked the third straight playoff season that Westview was able to topple the Black Tornado, only this time North Medford still has an opportunity to continue playing. Unlike the first-round exits of the past two years, the Black Tornado still has a shot at placing third with a win today against Central Catholic (23-4). The loser of the 3:15 p.m. game will place fifth.
"Everybody's disappointed in there," North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn said of the post-game mood in the locker room. "We felt like we belonged and we earned our right to get here after doing some really good things. We're disappointed we didn't win the game, but at the same time we've got to look back and say, 'Hey, you are playing for something that no one else from North has been able to do,' and that's a third-place trophy. We've got to bounce back really quick and go after that thing."
The Wildcats will look to deny Jesuit's bid for a third straight state title tonight. The top-ranked Crusaders beat the second-ranked Rams 77-61 in Friday's other semifinal.
Knox scored nine of his team-high 12 points in the second half to help spark North Medford, while junior Chris Faust put in a workmanlike effort in finishing with nine points and nine rebounds. All seven of Michael Osmanski's points came in the final 16 minutes, and Jordan Browne-Moore teamed with Faust to slow Kuemper as much as possible and still registered five points, six boards and three steals.
Kuemper finished with 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting and pulled down eight rebounds, while fleet-footed point guard Miles Gatewood added 15 points and five assists for Westview.
"We did a good job on (Kuemper) in the second half," Plankenhorn said of the Oregon recruit. "We kept banging and battling and competing and doing some things but then Gatewood was just heck on wheels for us against our guards. He had a great game and continued to make great plays for them. Then when Kuemper did get his chances, he didn't miss too many tonight."
A 10-2 run in the first quarter allowed the Wildcats to take a 20-13 lead into the second quarter. Another 8-2 run to open the second half pushed Westview's lead to 40-25 midway through the third quarter, but the gritty Black Tornado wasn't about to let up and matched the Wildcats with an 11-2 run of its own to pull within six points.
A dose of bad luck hindered North's cause when reserve point guard Marcus Ellis was tripped up in the final seconds of the quarter, turning the ball over to Gatewood, who found Kuemper under the basket for a buzzer-beating basket.
Undaunted, the Tornado used two free throws by Knox to pull within 46-40 on the first possession of the final quarter. North then forced a turnover and had two good looks at the basket before Westview regained momentum with a putback basket by Cole Gatewood following a missed lay-in by Miles Gatewood. Westview's Blake Carlson then stepped in front of a Knox pass and Miles Gatewood drained a 3-pointer at the other end to pump the lead back up to 51-40 in the blink of an eye.
"Every run we had they would come back and answer," said Knox. "We got it down to six but that's as far as we could go."
The Tornado's inability to get over the hump proved to be its undoing.
"We were right there but the strength of a really good team is they made baskets and made plays during that big-time stretch," said Plankenhorn. "I felt like they played just a little better than us. Not anything about effort or how hard we played or how we competed, just that they played more solid and the stats probably will show that."
Final statistics for rebounds, turnovers, steals, blocked shots and free throws were essentially a wash between the teams. Where Westview truly held the advantage was in field goal percentage (48.9 percent on 23-for-47 shooting) and assists (13 compared to four by North). The Tornado was 17-for-44 for the game (38.6 percent).
"On defense they really got us out of some of the offense that we wanted to run," added Knox.
Playing in its second semifinal in four years, North Medford attempted to push the pace against Westview from the opening tip in hopes of negating Kuemper's size advantage, but the Wildcats were able to adapt without missing a beat.
"Good basketball teams don't allow you to do what you want to do and Westview did that tonight," added Plankenhorn. "They dictated the tempo, dictated the game. We continued to play hard and I loved our kids' effort, but we just could not get over the hump."
NORTH MEDFORD (20-6)
Knox 3-6 5-5 12, Osmanski 3-8 1-1 7, Browne-Moore 2-7 1-2 5, Mautz 2-6 0-0 5, Faust 4-5 1-5 9, Ellis 2-6 0-0 4, Artale 0-4 0-0 0, Bailey 0-1 0-0 0, McEwen 0-0 0-0 0, Garfas 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 17-44 8-13 44.
M. Gatewood 6-13 2-3 15, Jackson 0-1 2-2 2, Belding 2-5 0-0 4, Kuemper 9-13 2-3 20, Goods 4-7 2-2 12, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Hanson 0-1 0-0 0, C. Gatewood 2-3 0-0 4, Bevens 0-0 0-0 0, Leunen 0-0 0-0 0, Carlson 0-3 0-0 0, Burns 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 23-47 8-10 57.
North Medford 13 10 15 6 — 44
Westview 20 12 14 11 — 57
3-point goals — North Medford 2-8 (Knox 1-1, Osmanski 0-1, Mautz 1-3, Artale 0-3), Westview 3-8 (M. Gatewood 1-4, Belding 0-1, Goods 2-2, Burns 0-1). Fouled out — Jackson. Rebounds — North Medford 26 (Faust 9), Westview 27 (Kuemper 8). Assists — North Medford 4 (Knox, Browne-Moore, Mautz, Ellis 1), Westview 13 (M. Gatewood 5). Turnovers — North Medford 16, Westview 14. Total fouls — North Medford 12, Westview 17.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry