Off to the races
The South Medford girls basketball team extended a pair of winning streaks on Tuesday.
The third-ranked Panthers defeated St. Mary's Academy, 84-53, in the opening round of the Class 6A state playoffs at South Medford High. With the victory, South stretched its run of consecutive triumphs to 17, while also picking up the program's seventh straight first-round state playoff win.
Senior Julissa Tago had 21 points and seven rebounds and senior Jasmin Falls added 20 points and eight rebounds for the Panthers (23-3), who will next host West Salem in the second round of the playoffs Friday at a time to be determined. The winner of that game advances to the 6A state tournament.
Junior Lauren Orndoff recorded 17 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, five steals and three blocks for South.
The Panthers led from start to finish against the Blues (6-19), whose roster includes four freshmen and four sophomores. South was up 19-10 after the first quarter and owned a 39-23 advantage at halftime.
St. Mary's was led by junior standout Bendu Yeaney, who had 21 points. Yeaney is ranked as the 13th best guard in the nation and 55th overall for the class of 2017, according to ESPN.
Ula Chamberlin chipped in 16 points and five rebounds and Jonnay Foote nine points, three assists and three steals for the Panthers, who outrebounded the Blues, 36-19.
"I thought we knew the key to the game would be to control Bendu, and of course she started red hot and we are like, 'Uh oh,'" said South Medford head coach Tom Cole, who improved to 19-8 in state playoff contests during his nine years at the helm. "But we got great productivity early from some kids. Jonnay hit a couple big shots, Lauren was tremendous tonight and Ula helped spread the floor. It became a real team effort."
As for Tago and Falls?
"They are the steadies and the anchors for what we're doing," Cole said. "They showed it again tonight. That is what your senior leadership should do."
After a Yeaney layup cut her team's deficit to two early in the first quarter, South went on a 7-0 surge that marked the beginning of the end for the Portland squad.
"We just settled down," Tago said of the game's early goings. "We just executed our plays more and found open areas on the floor and got our teammates open."
The Panthers seemed to have an answer for any Blue bucket after that, and they really piled it on with a 12-0 run in the third.
"Tom got those girls ready to play well," St. Mary's head coach Dewey Taylor III said. "Knowing Tom and his teams of the past, I expected to see pressure and a team that likes to get up and down the court. They did a good job today. I was impressed by how fast they played. You can see the seasoning, the years of experience. You can see they are poised and ready to make some noise in the tournament."
As simple as it sounds, Orndoff said steady play has been the key to the squad's winning streak.
"I think we’ve been really consistent on offense and defense," she said.
Tago and Yeaney shared a few kind words afterward.
"We played on a club team together," Tago said. "She is a freak of nature. She just gets it done."
South’s next opponent, West Salem, is 17-8. The Titans defeated North Medford, 58-55, in overtime on Tuesday to set the matchup. They finished third in the Greater Valley Conference, behind South Salem and McNary.
ST. MARY'S ACADEMY (53): Yeaney 21, Galian 0, Brazile 2, Ell 3, Luciano 3, Bienapfl 4, Ruff 2, Sherlag 0, Rawhouser-Mylet 0, Newton 12, Fallon 0, Norman 6. Totals: 21 8-16 53.
SOUTH MEDFORD (84): Chamberlin 16, O'Brien-Long 0, Johnson 0, Orndoff 17, Foote 9, Jones 1, Falls 20, Tago 21. Totals: 37 7-9 84.
St. Mary's Academy;10;13;16;14;—;53
3-point goals — St. Mary's Academy 3 (Newton 1, Yeaney 1, Luciano 1), South Medford 3 (Chamberlin 3, Foote 1).
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt