It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely the kind of character victory North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn will take every time.
The Black Tornado boys basketball team trailed Forest Grove by 13 points with three minutes to play in the third quarter of Thursday’s championship game of the 27th annual Abby’s Holiday Classic and then everything turned on a dime.
A steal by senior Brad Allen and subsequent layup was followed by a steal and coast-to-coast layup by junior Kaison Faust and then another steal and three-point play by senior Wyatt Baptiste. The next thing you knew, North Medford was rolling in what turned into a festive atmosphere at South Medford High.
The Black Tornado wound up outscoring the Vikings 29-15 over the final 11 minutes of a 57-56 victory that came down to one last-ditch shot by Forest Grove as time expired.
“One thing I know about our team is we’ll put ourselves in some predicaments that you shouldn’t be in down big numbers,” said Plankenhorn. "But another thing I know is for the most part, we usually keep fighting and you’re going to have to find a way to put us away because we’re going to keep coming.”
Allen scored seven of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to go with 12 rebounds and Faust added 19 points and seven rebounds to spur North Medford to its third straight Abby’s Holiday Classic crown and ninth overall. Both were named to the all-tournament team with Forest Grove’s Bailey Evers and Kyle Thompson, South Medford’s Riley Martin and Oregon City’s Teron Bradford.
“As a team we just stuck together,” said Faust. “The second team in that third and fourth quarter really brought the momentum for us and I really just fed off their momentum in the fourth quarter.”
“I think at the end of the day we just really, really focused on staying cool, calm and collected and that was what did it for us,” added the 6-foot-1 wing.
The win was a nice testament to the Black Tornado’s fortitude after being pressed to the limit by a Forest Grove team that had won eight straight games entering Thursday’s finale.
North junior guard Quinton Rumrey cashed a 3-pointer to close the third quarter and cut the deficit to 46-40 entering the final frame, and then Allen stepped up with a 15-footer and ensuing 3-pointer to give the Black Tornado (8-4) its first lead since the early stages of the second quarter.
In the interim, junior Jake O’Connor drew a pivotal charge that resulted in the fourth foul on Evers, and the Vikings grew cold from long range with three straight misses beyond the arc.
“I thought tonight maybe there were a couple plays where in the past eight games we’ve hit shots that have gone down when we needed one, and it didn’t go,” said Forest Grove head coach Greg Evers. “We had some big shots, but not enough.”
Two more foul shots by Rumrey kept the momentum on North’s side, and senior Tre Holmes helped keep it going with a driving basket and three free throws to complement a clutch driving basket by Faust and free throw by Baptiste.
Not willing to go quietly, Forest Grove used a 3-pointer by Evers to cut North’s advantage and added a trey by Thompson with 1.9 seconds to play to make it 57-56. After that, the Black Tornado failed to inbound the ball on two attempts, the final one resulting in a five-second violation that gave Forest Grove one last shot. But Zach Stanich could only manage an off-balance 18-footer just before time expired.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the second half,” said coach Evers. “We played great in the first half and we had them flustered with our defense, but then they hit a couple shots and we made a couple mistakes on our end and the momentum just swung. You just can’t afford to let a team get momentum like that when you’re on the road.”
As clutch as Allen and Faust were throughout the tournament for North Medford, Plankenhorn was quick to credit the play of reserves Oscar Banuelos, O’Connor, Rumrey and Kyle Barry for turning it around in a bleak third quarter.
“We had some backup guys come in there and just play amazing to get us within range and then over the hump a little bit,” said Plankenhorn, whose team has now won six straight entering Southwest Conference play. “That was huge for us.”
Thompson finished with 25 points, Evers had 13 points, six rebounds and three steals and Dillon James chipped in nine points and six boards for the Vikings (8-2).
NORTH MEDFORD (57): Faust 19, Allen 15, Holmes 9, Rumrey 5, Baptiste 4, Hunter 2, Ireland 2, Banuelos 1, O’Connor 0, Barry 0. Totals: 20-48 14-22 57.
FOREST GROVE (56): Thompson 25, Evers 13, James 9, G. Littlefield 4, D. Littlefield 3, Stanich 2, Purcell 0. Totals: 17-50 13-18 56.
3-point goals — North Medford 3-16 (Faust 1, Rumrey 1, Allen 1), Forest Grove 9-28 (James 3, Evers 2, Thompson 2, D. Littlefield 1, G. Littlefield 1). Fouled out — Evers.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry