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North Medford clinches spot in 6A tourney with win over McNary

In the days leading up to Friday’s Class 6A state playoff clash against McNary, North Medford senior Brad Allen kept telling his teammates that although the second-round tilt would be his final game in the Black Tornado gym, he most definitely didn’t want it to be his final game overall.

With Allen leading the charge, North Medford’s seventh-ranked boys basketball team did all it could to extend its season — and needed every bit of it against a gritty Celtics squad from Salem.

Allen scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in a frenetic fourth quarter to help North Medford clinch its fifth trip to the 6A state tournament in the last 10 years with a 73-67 triumph over McNary, which lost to the Black Tornado in the same scenario two years ago.

“Brad just took all that to heart and came out and gave it everything that he had,” said North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn, whose team improved to 21-5.

“We were 2-4 at one time,” added the coach, “and then we bought into what our process was, we changed a few things and told them we have to buy in on the defensive end better … and it’s just been an amazing ride since then. Here we are heading to the state tournament as (Southwest Conference) champions, it’s amazing.”

Through a crowd of hugs and proud amateur photographers, Allen stood out as much for his broad smile as his 6-foot-6 frame for what the Black Tornado was able to pull off under incredibly tense situations in his home gym.

“It’s indescribable,” said Allen. "The atmosphere here is something that I’ll never forget. Home-court advantage was an advantage for sure. I just thank everyone that came out and supported us because we couldn’t have done it without them.”

“We’ve been looking forward to this game all year long and we got it done,” he added. “Our last home game and we left no regrets, for sure.”

North Medford will next face four-time defending state champion West Linn at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday in the quarterfinals at the Chiles Center in Portland. The second-ranked Lions (21-4) beat Lincoln 76-65 on Friday.

Allen added 14 rebounds and three assists to his all-around total, while fellow senior Tre Holmes scored all 14 of his points in the second half to go with six rebounds, and junior Kaison Faust added 13 points and five rebounds.

It was Allen’s baseline jumper that kick-started a 15-2 surge that allowed North Medford to turn a two-point deficit into a 47-36 lead through three quarters against McNary (19-7), which missed five of its final six shots in the frame to fall off the pace.

But as important as Allen’s stabilizing influence was for the Tornado, it was an unusually hot finish from 3-point range that may have done the trick against the Celtics. After going 1-for-7 from beyond the arc to start the game, North Medford splashed in 6 of 7 in the final 10 minutes.

Faust started the run with a trey from the top of the key and, after Oscar Banuelos missed from long range, fellow junior Quinton Rumrey chased down the rebound and didn’t hesitate in turning it into the first of his three 3-pointers. Holmes’ 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds to go in the third pushed North’s lead to 47-36 and left the Tornado faithful in a frenzy.

After a pair of Allen baskets to open the fourth quarter, Banuelos connected on a 3-pointer and the Tornado got more from Holmes and Rumrey to go up 60-44 with four minutes to play.

“That is not where we live,” Plankenhorn said of the 3-point barrage (7-for-14 overall). “We’ve got guys that can shoot it, but we know where we want to live and it’s through 33 (Allen) and 35 (Faust) on the inside. But Kaison stepped out and hit one tonight, and (Rumrey) was huge stepping into his shots, Oscar hit one and Tre … it was just a great effort by everybody and I’m just so proud.”

In Holmes’ eyes, everything just kind of steamrolled for North Medford toward the end of the third quarter and into the fourth.

“We just started making shots and once you start making shots we got on a roll,” said Holmes. “It was a good thing we had that 16-point lead because they started firing back and hitting them, too, in the fourth.”

Where points were hard to come by for either team in the opening three quarters, they came in bunches in the fourth quarter as McNary dialed it up from deep to score 23 of its 31 fourth-quarter points in the final four minutes to keep fans on the edge of their seats.

“Holy smokes, I thought our defense was fantastic and then all of a sudden with four minutes to go they just went crazy from the 3-point line,” said Plankenhorn of McNary’s six 3-pointers over the final stretch. “We kept telling the kids we can’t let them do that, and of course then they’re smart enough to drive it. They got down and they just got ultra-aggressive and we kind of backed off because we were trying to hold onto a lead. We just needed one stop and we finally got one.”

After Alex Martin had three treys and Kevin Martin came off the bench for another, Chandler Cavell hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 69-66 with 35 seconds to play. The Celtics’ Easton Neitzel then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and immediately drove the lane for a runner but saw it carom too far off the glass and into the waiting arms of Allen.

With 29.1 seconds left, Allen calmly stepped up and hit two free throws to make it 71-66. McNary drew a quick foul but Lucas Garvey couldn’t convert the front end of a one-and-one. After Faust was fouled and went 1-for-2 from the foul line, Cavell was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 15.6 seconds to go but missed the first two shots before making the third to make it 72-67. Faust later added one more free throw following a missed 3-pointer by Neitzel for the final margin.

Cade Goff led the Celtics with 14 points and eight rebounds, Matthew Ismay added 12 points and five boards and Alex Martin and Cavell each netted 11 points for a McNary squad that finished 3-for-12 from the free-throw line and 8-for-19 from beyond the arc.

“There’s never any quit in our group,” said McNary head coach Ryan Kirch. “These kids will walk out of here tonight with their head held high. You get to a game like this and it’s just tough, you’ve got two really, really good teams and a couple possessions here and there make a difference. That final 30 seconds in the first half really hurt us (when North closed on a 4-0 run to go up 28-23 at halftime) and a missed couple free throws here and there and that’s the difference in a game like this.”

In the only real setback for North Medford, senior Joey Hunter left the game late in the third quarter with a foot injury. He had six points, three assists and two steals.

“Hopefully he’s all right,” said Plankenhorn, “and if he’s not, we’ll plug guys in and see what we’ve got.”

MCNARY (67): Goff 14, Ismay 12, A. Martin 11, Cavell 11, Neitzel 7, Harvey 6, K. Martin 6, Garvey 0, Jones 0. Totals: 28-60 3-12 67.

NORTH MEDFORD (73): Allen 24, Holmes 14, Faust 13, Rumrey 9, Hunter 6, Baptiste 4, Banuelos 3, Ireland 0, O’Connor 0. Totals: 25-49 16-27 73.

McNary;11;12;13;31;—;67

North Medford;11;17;19;26;—;73

3-point goals — McNary 8-19 (A. Martin 3, K. Martin 2, Cavell 2, Neitzel 1), North Medford 7-14 (Rumrey 3, Holmes 2, Faust 1, Banuelos 1). Fouled out — Ismay, Faust.

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

North Medford's Brad Allen goes up for a basket against a McNary defender in the fourth quarter of their Class 6A playoff game Friday at North Medford High. [ANDY ATKINSON/MAIL TRIBUNE]
North Medford's Tre Holmes, right, makes a move to the basket against McNary's Adam Harvey Friday in a Class 6A playoff game at North Medford High. [ANDY ATKINSON/MAIL TRIBUNE]