Banner half for South
With a Southern Oregon Hybrid championship banner there for the taking on Tuesday night, South Medford was more than happy to lay claim to it when North Medford stumbled in front of a packed house in the Black Tornado gym.
Fifth-ranked North Medford built double-digit leads on the No. 10 Panthers in the first and second quarters, but each time South Medford was able to reel in the deficit to a more manageable level in the winner-take-all affair.
And when the game became up for grabs down the stretch, the Panthers' winning tradition ultimately shined through as the visitors outscored the Black Tornado 34-18 in the second half to gain a 58-48 triumph.
"We're never going to drop and let it go," South Medford senior Jack Singler said of his team's character. "We're going to battle back every single time and that's what helped us come back and win it tonight. Everyone that stepped on the court brought a great effort. Everyone was making their plays and doing what we needed to do to get the win."
The victory propelled South Medford (21-3, 11-1 SOH) to a second straight SOH championship and allowed the Panthers to lay claim to at least a share of 10 of the last 11 conference crowns.
"It feels amazing to have this two years in a row," added Singler, who grew up as a ballboy for the Panthers and had a game-high 18 points on Tuesday. "We just keep building on that South Medford tradition."
North Medford (20-3, 10-2), which was the SOH coaches' preseason favorite, was vying for its first league title since the 1998-99 season but could only watch in frustration as the game slowly slipped away over the final 16 minutes.
The Panthers used a 7-1 run out of halftime to tie the game, then used a 3-pointer by Jesse Mondry to take their first lead of the contest at 40-37 with one minute to go in the third quarter. That three-point edge gradually ballooned in the fourth quarter thanks to a 5-for-7 effort from the field and a 7-for-8 showing from the foul line that included three one-and-one situations.
"They played better than we did, they deserve everything they get," said North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn. "They outplayed us, period. They made shots all night long when they needed to. We made a couple runs and then they'd make some more shots, you've just got to give all the credit to them."
North Medford hurt its own cause by connecting on only 5 of 14 shots in the final quarter and was 8-for-29 in the second half. Overall, the Black Tornado was 21 of 56 from the field (38 percent) while South Medford connected on 23-for-45 (51 percent).
"It was strictly a confidence thing," Plankenhorn said of his team's struggles late in the game. "All of a sudden when they took the lead, the air went out of our kids. We tried everything to get them back going and we had a couple runs but we never really got everything going."
After North senior Jordan Browne-Moore scored on the opening possession of the fourth quarter to make it 40-39, South Medford went on an 8-2 run sparked by six points from senior Jack Delaney, who had sat out most of the third quarter after picking up his third foul with two minutes to go in the first half.
"As soon as I got in I just wanted to kinda get redemption," said Delaney, who finished with 10 points and three steals. "I was kinda frustrated so it was great to be able to get back in there and get some buckets."
Browne-Moore found senior Derek Mautz for a wide-open 3-pointer to bring the North faithful to their feet in hopes of a rally, but South junior Adrian Garcia found Mondry in the corner for an answer beyond the arc to push the Panther lead back up to 51-44.
The Tornado dodged a bullet after a turnover when Delaney was called for a charging foul on a layin over Browne-Moore and Trey Garfas scored on a spinning layup to pull his team within five points.
A frantic minute that saw the ball ping-pong between both teams followed without any real scoring threat until North senior Chris Faust converted a driving shot to the basket with 1:16 to go.
With the Panthers' lead wavering at only three points, the Tornado opted to foul twice to put their rivals on the free-throw line for a one-and-one situation that Singler coolly converted despite rowdy conditions with 45 seconds to go.
A miss by Faust then led to one free throw by South senior Matt Retzlaff, then Garcia stepped in front of a long outlet pass by Browne-Moore. After being fouled, Garcia converted both ends of his one-and-one opportunity to put South up 56-48 with 19.8 seconds left.
Junior Oshea Bailey's 3-pointer missed its mark for North and Mondry was fouled on the rebound to set up two more free throws by the Panthers for the final hard-fought margin.
"With the conference championship on the line we knew we just had to lay it all out there and that's what we did," said Garcia, who had nine points, four assists, four steals and three rebounds. "We had a good halftime talk and we knew we had to come out with stronger intensity (in the second half) so I just tried to come out here with my best effort."
Mondry finished with 12 points and five rebounds and Retzlaff had seven points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals for the Panthers, who were tabbed second in the preseason poll but mostly due to tradition since the team returned only one varsity regular in Retzlaff.
"It's huge," South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy said of earning a 16th title in 26 seasons since Medford split into two schools in 1986. "This will be one of my greatest ever just because the odds were so much against us and there were not a lot of people in our corner."
Browne-Moore scored 11 of his 16 points in the first half for the Tornado and also had nine rebounds on Senior Night, while Garfas had nine points, three rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Mautz added 10 points and three steals and Faust had six points and seven rebounds.
SOUTH MEDFORD (58) — Singler 18, Mondry 12, Delaney 10, Garcia 9, Retzlaff 7, Sarsona 2, Curtius 0, McCoy 0, Johnson 0. Totals: 23-45 8-9 58.
NORTH MEDFORD (48) — Browne-Moore 16, Mautz 10, Garfas 9, Bailey 7, Faust 6, Winans 0, Gray 0, Parker 0. Totals: 21-56 2-7 48.
South Medford 8 16 16 18 — 58
North Medford 14 16 7 11 — 48
3-point goals — South Medford 4-10 (Mondry 2, Singler 1, Garcia 1), North Medford 4-20 (Mautz 2, Bailey 1, Garfas 1). Fouled out — Mautz.
JV score — North Medford 63, South Medford 49.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry