South Medford's Jasmin Falls would not be denied.
"Beast Mode," South Medford head coach Tom Cole said as he passed her in a hallway at South Medford High after the second-ranked Panthers' 77-50 win over seventh-ranked Sheldon on Friday.
Falls recorded 23 points — 20 in the first half — eight rebounds and two blocks in a performance that Cole described as her best ever. She ground down her opponents with moves of skill down low, broke through the Irish's full-court press for numerous layups and kept the heat up on the defensive end.
"She is such an important part of what we do," Cole said. "Her physicality tonight, on the boards, and her presence in the post and finishing, was incredible. I think it wasn't always pretty for us at points, but the one kid who stayed consistent for four quarters was Jasmin Falls."
After stumbling through a rough start to the first quarter, South orchestrated a dominant effort in a contest viewed as a good measuring stick by Cole. The end result seemed to prove the distance between first and second place in the Southwest Conference is great.
Julissa Tago turned in 16 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three blocks and Keyari Sleezer added 14 points, seven assists, two blocks and two steals for the Panthers (14-4, 7-0 SWC), who led 25-12 after the opening period and 46-25 at halftime.
The triumph was South's fifth in a row and snapped a five-game winning streak by Sheldon (13-4, 5-2).
"It's a huge win for us," Tago said. "We knew coming in that Sheldon would play us really tough — them and Roseburg. Roseburg was a tough win, too. It was a huge win, honestly, because it was the first look to see our competition and develop the way we play during state. It was one of the biggest wins we've had here at South."
The first four or five minutes of the eventual rout proved most interesting.
Jessica Anderson's bucket gave the Irish a 12-8 lead midway through the first.
"They came out fired up," Tago said. "They knew where we were going to be at on offense and defense and where we'd run so we had to make some adjustments. It's all about momentum."
It was the beginning of the end for Sheldon.
South — which was challenged by the Irish's defense in the beginning — scored the last 17 points of the quarter to pull away.
It was more of the same in the second quarter and into the third, when Falls scored 12 of her points.
"Honestly it was my teammates," Falls said. "That is who I credit every single time. This was our best team effort I feel like. Everyone contributed."
As for her buckets as the Irish defense swarmed full court?
"Their zone was coming up and they saw me floating back and they just got me the ball," Falls said. "Our guards are quick."
The Panthers owned a 56-37 edge entering the final frame.
"That's a veteran team that doesn't crack," Sheldon head coach Brian Brancato said. "It was a matter of how long you can go without cracking under their pressure."
Andee Ritter chipped in eight points, four rebounds and three assists, Lauren Orndoff eight points and four rebounds and Hannah Washington four points, six rebounds, four steals and two blocks for South.
Ritter canned a deep corner 3 that put the Panthers ahead, 15-12.
South finished with a season-high 25 assists with 14 steals and 10 blocks in a physical contest that was a blur of turnovers at times.
Autumn Baumgartner scored 13 for the Irish.
SHELDON (50) — Moore 2, Kirton 5, Barclay 3, Hall 10, Anderson 6, Maris 0, Morosky 0, Baumgartner 13, Clark 8, Green-Brooks 3. Totals: 18 13-25 50.
SOUTH MEDFORD (77) — Williams 4, Tago 16, Ritter 8, Orndoff 8, Sleezer 14, Lemons 0, Falls 23, Washington 4. Totals: 29 15-22 77.
3-point goals — Sheldon 1 (Kirton 1), South Medford 4 (Ritter 2, Sleezer 2). Fouled out — Ritter, Green-Brooks.
JV score — South Medford 69, Sheldon 61.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499 or email email@example.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt