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Holiday hoops

After plenty of time on the road, the North Medford and South Medford boys basketball teams are happy to be home.

The squads will play host in the twenty-seventh annual Abby's Holiday Classic tournament, which begins on Tuesday.

Some quality hoops action is expected with the eight-team field of the Black Tornado (5-4), the Panthers (4-4), Forest Grove (6-1), McKay (4-1), Reynolds (2-3), Oregon City (2-3), Roseburg (2-4) and 5A Ashland (3-4).

Games begin Tuesday at North Medford and South Medford high schools. The tournament continues with all of the contests Wednesday and Thursday at South Medford High.

At South Medford High on Tuesday, Roseburg plays Forest Grove at 6 p.m. and South Medford faces Reynolds at 7:45 p.m. At North Medford High, Ashland takes on Oregon City at 6 p.m. and North Medford battles McKay at 7:45 p.m.

The third-place game is set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday and the championship for 5:15 p.m. that evening.

Last year, the eighth-ranked Black Tornado beat the No. 3 Panthers, 62-54, in the Abby's championship. It was North's seventh Holiday Classic crown.

South Medford (4-4) is 4-3 against North all-time in Abby's finals.

Brian Schireman, then a senior guard, had 22 points for North.

The Black Tornado now features junior wing Kaison Faust, who is averaging 14.4 points and 2 1/2 assists per game, and senior post Brad Allen (12.4 points, nine rebounds, 2 1/2 assists).

McKay, of the Greater Valley Conference, is off to a solid start.

"McKay will be a challenge," North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn said. "The way they play is definitely different than most teams with their full-court pressure, playing up and down and shooting 3s. They are a solid basketball team."

The Abby's tournament is a great chance to be home for the holidays while playing a similar three-day format as the state championships, Plankenhorn said.

"It is just a great chance to play home games in front of home fans," Plankenhorn said. "It has always been a fun tournament and it's similar to the state tournament, if you can get there.

"(The Abby's field) seems pretty solid. Obviously we've got McKay, which is off to a nice start, and Oregon City and Ashland on our side of the bracket."

Reynolds, of the Mt. Hood Conference, lost to North Medford, 75-70, in the Lakeridge Tournament on Dec. 19. That club will take on a Panthers squad featuring senior wing Riley Martin (11.4 points per game), senior guard/wing Victor Mitchell (11.3 points), junior post Chase Cota (8.3 rebounds) and senior wing Steven Phillips (3.1 assists).

South Medford has only played one home game so far, while North has played two.

"With our squad, we have a bunch of athletes but it doesn't mean we will score a bunch of points," South Medford head coach James Wightman said. "The football guys are still stiff. We played OK (against Central Catholic on Dec. 20). It shows you we can do some pretty good things, but we can't be average. We've got to be good or great to win some games. ... We just have to play a lot tougher and not make mental mistakes. We have to value our possessions on both sides of the floor, get stops and get the best shot we can get and score."

Like Plankenhorn, Wightman enjoys the tradition of Abby's.

"I played in three of these and have been around for 15 more," he said. "I enjoy all our alumni that come back. Kids who are in college and out of college and getting to talk about the tournament and the good old days."

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

North Medford junior wing Kaison Faust has averaged 14.4 points and 2 1/2 assists per game this season. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.