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Vikings battle past South

South Medford was able to pull off a comeback victory on the opening day of the 27th Abby’s Holiday Classic, but Forest Grove’s boys basketball team wasn’t about to let it happen two nights in a row.

The visiting Vikings used a 12-0 run covering 2½ minutes of play over the first and second quarters to separate from the Panthers and then made all the necessary plays to keep South Medford at bay en route to a 68-54 victory Wednesday at South Medford High.

Forest Grove (8-1) advances to face North Medford in Thursday's championship game at 5:15 p.m., while South Medford (5-5) will play Oregon City in the third-place contest at 3:30 p.m. The Black Tornado, which has won two straight Abby’s titles and eight overall, topped the Pioneers 66-50 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.

“We didn’t come out ready and as prepared as we should have,” said South Medford senior Riley Martin, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds. “I think our intensity just wasn’t there like it was yesterday towards the end and we just didn’t come with the same fire. It’s frustrating but we’ll learn from it.”

Forest Grove jumped out to an 8-3 lead midway through the first quarter behind two 3-pointers and a layin by Bailey Evers, who had five treys in the first quarter and six overall Tuesday against Roseburg.

The Panthers countered with a surge that included four points by Martin and eventually tied the game at 11-all on a drive by Kaleb Franklin. But as they did all night, the Vikings answered immediately with a 3-pointer by Guy Littlefield and benefited by a controversial charging call that negated what could have been a tying three-point play by Franklin.

On the next possession, Kyle Thompson drained a 3-pointer and the Vikings were off and running again. Thompson finished with 24 points to pace his team, while Evers scored 15 points and Zach Stanich pulled in 11 rebounds.

“Bailey kind of got a couple looks early that kind of got us going, but Kyle Thompson was unstoppable,” said Forest Grove head coach Greg Evers. “They couldn’t keep him in front of them.”

“We obviously have a couple leading scorers that really carry us but we got contributions everywhere that really helped us,” added Evers. “(South Medford) made some shots but it seemed like they never really got a big run on us so the lead never really shrunk enough to be too much of a problem. We had a lot of possessions where we scored some tough, tough buckets.”

The Panthers were able to trim their deficit to five points with 2½ minutes to play in the third quarter after back-to-back baskets by Will Winans, but the Vikings again found an answer with a 3-pointer by Thompson and a lob basket by Dillon James to reclaim a double-digit advantage.

“That’s a good team there, they just know how to play basketball,” said South Medford head coach James Wightman of the Vikings. “They made plays, and we just weren’t very smart tonight on both sides of the ball.”

“That’s the worst that we’ve been the whole year on the defensive end of the floor,” added Wightman. “We were not getting back on defense and guys didn’t know who they were guarding … we were doing so many things wrong on the defensive end and it is just a disappointing thing because one night ago we thought that’s why we won the game was our play on the defensive end.”

Franklin finished with eight points before fouling out and Victor Mitchell had seven points off the bench for the Panthers. Chase Cota was hampered by two fouls in the opening 45 seconds of the contest and managed six points and five rebounds before also fouling out in the fourth quarter. Both Franklin and Cota were eliminated after receiving technical fouls after being whistled for their fourth fouls within one minute of each other early in the final frame.

“We’ve got to learn from it, forget about it and move on to the next game,” said Martin. “We’ll be back tomorrow and try to fix things.”

As for the Vikings, Evers said he expects a fun matchup with North Medford in Thursday’s finale.

“They looked good,” he said after watching North beat Oregon City. “They’re going to be tough, and they’re a different team (than South Medford). They have some size and some bulk so that is a concern of mine, but they also have to be concerned about our quickness and our shooting.”

FOREST GROVE (68): Thompson 24, Evers 15, D. Littlefield 8, G. Littlefield 8, James 7, Stanich 4, Richards 2, Purcell 0, Bernards 0, Jones 0, Riley 0, Emerick 0. Totals: 25-50 12-18 68.

SOUTH MEDFORD (54): Martin 17, Franklin 8, Mitchell 7, Cota 6, Parnell 4, Phillips 4, Winans 4, Cunningham 2, Von Strahl 2, Owens 0, Higgins 0, Fisher 0. Totals: 24-53 3-9 54.

Forest Grove;17;16;15;20;—;68

South Medford;11;12;15;16;—;54

3-point goals — Forest Grove 6-15 (Evers 3, Thompson 2, G. Littlefield 1), South Medford 3-10 (Martin 2, Mitchell 1). Fouled out — Franklin, Cota. Technical fouls — Franklin, Cota.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Chase Cota of South Medford takes a shot from close range against Forest Grove in the semifinals of the Abby's Holiday Classic Wednesday at South Medford High. PHOTO BY ANDY ATKINSON
South Medford senior wing Riley Martin goes up for a 3-point shot against Forest Grove's Dillon James (1) in the first half Wednesday at South Medford High. PHOTO BY ANDY ATKINSON