North strong in loss
PORTLAND — His feet were sore and his body tired, but Chris Faust's heart was most certainly full of pride in the moments after North Medford's third-place final Saturday afternoon.
As the rest of his Black Tornado teammates exited the post-game locker room discussion here in the bowels of the Rose Garden, it was notable that all had their heads held high despite losing their second straight Class 6A state tournament tilt in less than 24 hours.
And for good reason.
Seventh-ranked North Medford shrugged off double-digit deficits in each half against No. 2 Central Catholic, mounting a late comeback that left the third-place championship in doubt until the final buzzer.
The Black Tornado trailed by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter before gritting its teeth and putting a scare into the Rams with a comeback that made Michael Osmanski's 35-footer to tie almost seem likely until it ultimately sailed over its target.
The final score may have placed North Medford on the short side of a 72-69 outcome, but it definitely didn't break the Tornado's spirit.
"I feel pretty good about it, really," said Faust. "Nobody thought we were going to get this far in the tournament or we were going to be this good. It was nice just to show everybody how good we really are."
The Black Tornado (20-7), which earned the Sportsmanship Award for the tournament, certainly had the respect of Central Catholic head coach Mike Petrino, who had nothing but praise for North's relentless 32-minute effort.
"They were hungry and they played well," said Petrino, whose Rams (24-4) won the Mt. Hood Conference. "I think they did a really good job of regrouping at halftime and coming out strong. I think they capitalized on their energy and we didn't capitalize on a few opportunities to put it away, but give them credit, they made good plays."
As someone who served as a complementary piece to a balanced puzzle all season, the 6-foot-2 Faust rose to the challenge throughout the week but never more than Saturday. The lanky junior converted 10 of 15 shots for 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while contending with a Central Catholic lineup that kept sending 6-8 posts his way.
"He was unbelievable," Tornado head coach Scott Plankenhorn said of Faust. "Obviously that took a lot of teammates to get him the basketball but he was special on the offensive end and in cleaning up the glass work. He showed a lot of heart up here and a lot of ability."
Faust was certainly not alone in that category.
Jared Knox added 12 points, two assists and two blocked shots and Osmanski, a fellow senior, scored seven of his 10 points in the second half to go with five rebounds and three assists.
North also received 10 rebounds, nine points and three assists from 6-3 junior Jordan Browne-Moore, who was thrown into a grinder in the paint against Brennan Scarlett, a 6-5, 255-pound defensive lineman headed to California.
"Browne-Moore just battled the whole night," said Plankenhorn, whose team placed fifth for the second time in four years. "I thought he had another great game."
Browne-Moore's rebound basket allowed North to cut into its 14-point deficit early in the fourth, then senior Marcus Ellis picked Lucas Hunter's pocket and converted a layup to spark the Tornado crowd.
Seven straight points by Faust kept the pressure on the Rams, who countered with mostly free throws, then things turned really interesting when Knox's reverse layup off an Osmanski pass trimmed the deficit to 70-64 with 1:56 to play.
"I just felt like I needed to step up a little bit and take charge and try to help the team win," Faust said of his aggressive play. "I'm glad I have teammates that like to find me and just want to give me the ball. They're great teammates and we've been doing that all year."
Central Catholic's David Carr answered with a free throw, then rebounded his own miss from the foul line to keep possession. Demetri Posey then missed on a drive and Osmanski blocked his putback attempt to send North off to the races, with Ellis firing a three-quarter court pass to Knox for another layup.
That basket came with 1:19 to play and North gambled on the ensuing possession by trying to steal the ball or get a five-second call. When finally forced to foul, it took the Tornado until 21.8 seconds remained before getting hold of Will Bond. Bond made only one free throw, and Faust was fouled with 9.3 seconds to go to send him to the foul line.
Faust made the first shot but the second rimmed off to the left, where Browne-Moore was able to pry the ball loose from Scarlett as both sprawled on the court. Osmanski picked up the loose ball and rolled it in with five seconds to go to bring North within three points.
North immediately fouled Carr, who missed both foul shots with 3.8 seconds left. Faust grabbed the final rebound and fired an outlet to Osmanski on the left side of the court. After a head fake at midcourt, Osmanski stepped into a desperation shot that had a little too much adrenaline on it and ultimately ricocheted off the top of the basket as the horn sounded.
"He had a pretty dang-good look at it," said Plankenhorn. "It's 35 feet but it was definitely one of those when he shot it, you think, 'This has got a chance.' And then when it got in the air, you noticed it was going to be long and then it was just, 'Darn.'"
Such an ending simply couldn't come with anything more negative said than that.
"Amazing heart by a team," said Plankenhorn. "They just never quit on it, ever. It was just absolute great heart by seniors and juniors and sophomores that just bought into everything we taught and continued to play every second of the game like you have to. The final buzzer ends, then you walk off and say, 'OK, that's it.'"
"It was just a great game and well-deserving kids either way," he continued. "You hate losing, but we walk off here pretty happy with a great group of seven seniors that played hard all year long."
CENTRAL CATHOLIC (24-4)
Bond 3-6 4-6 11, Ephrem 1-7 4-4 6, Posey 5-12 3-5 15, Scarlett 4-6 1-4 9, Carr 5-10 2-8 13, Hunter 0-0 1-2 1, Moreland 0-0 0-0 0, Dyer 2-3 2-2 6, Heath 2-6 5-6 9, Sonnemaker 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 23-51 22-37 72.
NORTH MEDFORD (20-7)
Knox 4-8 3-4 12, Osmanski 4-9 0-0 10, Browne-Moore 4-9 1-2 9, Mautz 1-8 2-2 4, Faust 10-15 4-6 24, Ellis 3-5 0-0 6, Artale 0-0 0-0 0, Bailey 0-2 0-0 0, McEwen 0-1 0-0 0, Howitt 0-0 1-2 1, Parker 0-0 0-0 0, Garfas 1-4 0-0 3. Totals: 27-61 11-16 69.
Central Catholic 18 23 17 14 — 72
North Medford 14 17 15 23 — 69
3-point goals — Central Catholic 4-8 (Bond 1-1, Posey 2-3, Carr 1-4), North Medford 4-20 (Knox 1-4, Osmanski 2-6, Mautz 0-4, Ellis 0-1, McEwen 0-1, Garfas 1-4). Fouled out — Knox, Mautz. Rebounds — Central Catholic 35 (Scarlett, Carr 6), North Medford 34 (Faust, Browne-Moore 10). Assists — Central Catholic 9 (Carr 4), North Medford 13 (Osmanski, Browne-Moore 3). Turnovers — Central Catholic 11, North Medford 11. Total fouls — Central Catholic 16, North Medford 26.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry