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Tornado breaks through with win

Tristen Holmes was just a freshman looking on from the bench as the North Medford boys basketball team fell to Jesuit in the Class 6A state semifinals inside the Moda Center in 2012.

The point guard helped guide the Black Tornado to the first round of the playoffs the next two years, only to see his squads fall.

To put it mildly, the senior has desired to finally break through and nab a postseason victory.

Holmes’ and his teammates’ hunger could not have been more evident than on Tuesday at North Medford High.

He finished with 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting with a 6-for-7 effort at the free-throw line as eighth-ranked and seventh-seeded North Medford downed No. 26-seeded Barlow, 63-49, for the program’s first playoff win in three seasons.

“Coach brought me up (to Portland’s Moda Center) to see what it’s like because he knew eventually I was going to have to lead a team there,” Holmes said. “It was just a great feeling that he thought that highly of me.”

Now one more test stands between the Tornado and a trip up north.

The Black Tornado (21-4) will next host McNary (22-3) on Friday in a second-round contest, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals in Portland. The Celtics beat Newberg, 48-45, on Tuesday.

Holmes added five rebounds and three assists for the Tornado, which has won eight straight and only has one non-Southwest Conference loss to its name (at Jesuit on Dec. 12).

“To have these guys around me who give me the energy to keep going and bring the passion that I have really helps me push myself in the games,” Holmes said.

One teammate in particular — junior reserve Tyren Wolfe — looked like a human Red Bull on Tuesday, serving up momentum-building play after momentum-building play at just the right moments.

“I just wanted to come in and bring energy,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe finished with 16 key points and three steals for the Tornado, which held a 15-10 edge after the first quarter but led just 25-24 at halftime.

The Bruins (13-12), paced by Parker Joncus’ 22 points, put up enough of a fight in the second half to keep things interesting.

North led 44-37 after the third quarter, and the Tornado’s six fourth-quarter turnovers allowed Barlow to hang around. Joncus’ putback with 2:59 to go cut the deficit to six.

But Tucker Barry knocked down a pair of free throws and then Holmes buried four straight from the charity stripe after a personal foul and subsequent technical foul on Barlow head coach Tom Johnson.

“He’s playing for a lot of stuff,” North head coach Scott Plankenhorn said of Holmes.

As for Wolfe?

“Monstrous off the bench,” Plankenhorn said. “My goodness. Like I said, two games in a row he’s taken over games.”

That said, Plankenhorn was pleased with the entire team’s effort. Brian Schireman had five points and four rebounds and Edmund Polataivao added six points and three steals for North, which shot an efficient 25 of 40 from the field.

“It’s nice to have the depth we have,” Plankenhorn said. “Because I thought we got a lot of good play off the bench. Guys like Karter (Dixon) made a huge play on a drive and played good D on (Dominik) Copper. Jack Singleton played good defense and (Alex) Brothers had a three-to-four-minute stretch where he brought energy. We’re not a three- or four-man team. Whatever we put out there, guys give us good minutes.”

Copper added nine points for Barlow, which finished the year on a four-game losing skid.

“We were scrambling and got some turnovers but just couldn’t convert at the offensive end (at the end),” Johnson said. “I’ve liked the way our kids have competed all year long. I’m proud of them.”

BARLOW (49) — Wilson 5, Meyer 0, Archer 0, Wilkinson 0, Ellis 1, Norquist 0, Lopez del Amo Aguado 6, Joncus 22, Copper 9, Ham 6. Totals: 15-42 16-20 49.

NORTH MEDFORD (63) — Schireman 5, Barry 2, Holmes 27, Faust 5, Dixon 2, Singleton 0, Polataivao 6, Brothers 0, Wolfe 16. Totals: 25-40 11-14 63.

Barlow;10;14;13;12;—;49

North Medford;15;10;19;19;—;63

3-point goals — Barlow 3 (Wilson 1, Joncus 2), North Medford 2 (Holmes 1, Schireman 1). Technical foul — Barlow coach Johnson.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt

North Medford's Tristen Holmes, who led all scorers with 27 points, shoots under pressure from Barlow defenders Tuesday. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.
North Medford's Edmund Polataivao races out on a fast break past Barlow defender Dominik Copper Tuesday at North Medford. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.