South Medford juniors Jasmin Falls and Julissa Tago have had some sensational days during their Panther careers, but few could outshine what the duo were able to accomplish on Wednesday.
Paced by Falls and Tago, who combined to miss only six shots in 28 attempts, South Medford’s top-ranked girls basketball team showed they are more than ready to take the state playoffs by storm during the Class 6A opening-round rout of Westview.
Falls scored 21 of her career-high 29 points by halftime and Tago had 18 of her 20 by the break as South Medford built a 36-point cushion en route to a 98-59 runaway victory over the visiting Wildcats.
The Panthers’ quick start was not by accident, according to Falls.
“We all pumped each other up in the locker room and just all said, ‘Let’s get after it, we’ve got to do this,’” said the 6-foot post.
And get after it they did.
The Panthers (22-4) got six quick points from Tago and were never threatened from there in taking a 32-12 lead after one quarter over Westview (9-17). Tago, a 5-9 guard/forward, connected on 6 of 7 shots in the first quarter to spark the charge and finished 9-for-13 with seven rebounds and three assists in limited minutes.
“She’s such a leader so she definitely just sets the tone for the entire team,” said Falls. “Getting that rhythm and that intensity early really helps us all.”
As efficient as Tago was, Falls had her beat by halftime. With hard work in the paint and good touch on her shots, Falls finished the half 10-for-12 from the field to Tago’s 8-for-10 — with each pulling in six rebounds for good measure.
“It was great for that hard work to pay off for Jasmin because she’s a big part of what we do,” said South Medford head coach Tom Cole.
Falls, who was 13-for-15 shooting overall, scored the first 14 points of the second quarter and left no doubt about South Medford advancing to the second round. The Panthers will play host to Glencoe, a 54-38 winner over Centennial, on Saturday.
Falls also finished with 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals in what she hopes sets the tone for the Panthers’ playoff intensity to come.
“Now is the time to do it,” she said. “Now we have to step up and really put some intensity forward and understand we’re a good enough team to take this as far as we want to. It just comes down to how hard we want to play and how much effort we put into it at the end of the day. We all just try to tell each other to put in as much effort as you can and just leave everything on the court.”
That effort was evident throughout and didn’t waver despite a revolving door of substitutions. All 11 South Medford players scored and had at least one rebound, with sophomore Lauren Orndoff adding 14 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two steals and senior Keyari Sleezer notching 10 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, three assists and two steals.
“They have balance,” said Westview head coach Lindsay Strothers. “Somebody gets guarded, they find the open player. And they rebound really well. It’s not that they jump out of the gym or anything spectacular, it’s just that they’re right there and they get it and they put it back and they make their layups. It wasn’t even like they shot us out of the gym, they layupped us out of the gym. It’s going to be hard for somebody to be able to handle all five of them.”
South Medford converted 26 of 46 shots in the first half (57 percent) and limited the Wildcats to 32 percent for the game (22-for-68), with the bulk of Westview’s offense coming in essentially a battle of junior varsity players in the final quarter.
Said Strothers: “Our thing was supposed to be: No. 1 take care of the ball, No. 2 rebound and No. 3 was to defend. We didn’t do a very good job of defending, we didn’t do a very good job of rebounding but we made up for it by turning the ball over.”
Junior Bria Thames had 11 points and Westview got nine points apiece from Ashley Scoggin, Alexis Meyer and Lauren Walters.
For South Medford, Hannah Washington battled foul troubles but still managed six points, four rebounds and two steals while Krystal Williams (six points, two rebounds, two steals), Emily Lemons (four points, two rebounds) and Jeryka Johnson (two points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals) were solid off the bench.
“At this point of the season, what we’re challenging our kids with is that you don’t get a lot of second opportunities,” said Cole. “If you have a bad game, it can cost you, and we’ve all been down this path before so it’s not like something we’re navigating for the first time. They have felt the sting of losing at the highest level and I think they’re showing the maturity of what it takes to actually make the next step forward.”
WESTVIEW (59) — Thames 11, Scoggin 9, Meyer 9, Walters 9, Mahuna 8, Novoa 5, Ishi 5, Shea 2, Uhl 1, Carter 0, Figueroa 0, McConnell 0. Totals: 22-68 10-18 59.
SOUTH MEDFORD (98) — Falls 29, Tago 20, Orndoff 14, Sleezer 10, Washington 6, Williams 6, Lemons 4, O’Brien-Long 3, Johnson 2, K. Ritter 2, Foote 2. Totals: 39-78 17-23 98.
3-point goals — Westview 5-21 (Mahuna 2, Thames 1, Ishi 1, Novoa 1), South Medford 3-8 (Orndoff 2, Sleezer 1). Fouled out — Lemons.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry