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Lucky Seven

For all the benefits a girls basketball team can have with four starters ranging anywhere from 5-foot-9 to 6-foot tall, there’s something to be said for those who hover a little closer to the court but whose play can be just as big.

South Medford 5-foot senior Jonnay Foote may get a little lost in the huddle surrounded by her teammates, but on Saturday she proved just how pivotal her play can be in helping lead the fifth-seeded Panthers to a runaway, 57-35 win over visiting Lincoln in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

“Jonnay has been an unsung hero all year,” said South Medford head coach Tom Cole. “She doesn’t fill up the stat lines, but her energy and her tenacity ... you can’t measure that, but it shows up every night. I really felt like her defensive energy was the catalyst to everybody else playing hard.”

Foote had eight points, five steals and four assists by halftime as South Medford opened a 34-14 advantage and cruised from there to secure the program’s seventh straight trip to the state tournament.

“It’s such a blessing to be able to go back to state,” said Foote, who finished with 10 points, six assists, six steals and three rebounds. “It’s so hard to do, and you put in so much work because that’s the ultimate goal to get back to the tournament every year. I’m just glad we were able to do it again tonight.”

South Medford (21-5) will next square off against fourth-seeded Grant at 3:15 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals after the Generals topped Jesuit 51-35 on Saturday.

“We’re excited to have another chance and just hoping to be successful up there and have a good rest of the season,” said Panthers senior Lauren Orndoff, who scored 15 of her game-high 19 points in the first half to go with five rebounds and five steals.

South Medford erased any doubts about Saturday’s showdown in the first quarter by zooming to a 12-0 lead in the first three minutes and settling for a 21-6 edge heading into the second quarter.

The initial flurry started with deep 3-pointers by 5-9 sophomore Ula Chamberlin and 5-9 freshman Bella Pedrojetti, then kicked into high gear as Foote and Orndoff scored consecutive driving baskets. That set up the play of the game when Chamberlin finished a transition opportunity with a behind-the-back pass to Foote for a layup.

“Our plan from the start was to come out hard and have everyone just get up on defense, and then the offense will come,” said Foote. “It’s nice when your whole team can contribute because then everyone gets in a flow with their shooting and passing and contributing any way they can.”

Much of the Panthers’ opening surge was spurred by a defense that had Lincoln (15-11) on its heels and confounded on how to create good scoring opportunities.

“You can’t coach that length and athleticism,” said Lincoln head coach Glen Lee. “My point guard probably had seven turnovers in the first quarter from how many tips they had. That length is really hard to play against with those kids shooting gaps, and that ball pressure that Foote puts on makes it tough.”

Pedrojetti also played a key role by draining four 3-pointers en route to 14 points, three rebounds and three steals, while Chamberlin had seven points and four assists and 6-0 senior Hannah Washington grabbed seven rebounds to go with five points.

“They came out tonight with a sense of urgency and I thought they played some of the most unselfish ball they have all season,” said Cole. “They really moved the ball around — they almost over-moved the ball at times — and I’m really proud of them because they’ve overcome some things and they just play a really great brand of basketball.”

Junior guard Reed Hazard scored 13 points to lead Lincoln, which was limited to 15-for-49 shooting (31 percent) and a host of turnovers. Senior Brianna Hill added seven points and four rebounds.

LINCOLN (35): Hazard 13, Hill 7, Nichols 5, Anderson 4, Summers 4, Waiwaiole 2, Lake 0, Heald 0, Bielen 0. Totals: 15-49 2-5 35.

SOUTH MEDFORD (57): Orndoff 19, Pedrojetti 14, Foote 10, Chamberlin 7, Washington 5, O’Brien-Long 2, Martin 0. Totals: 19-36 14-22 57.

Lincoln;6;8;11;10;—;35

South Medford;21;13;14;9;—;57

3-point goals — Lincoln 3-20 (Hazard 2, Nichols 1), South Medford 5-15 (Pedrojetti 4, Chamberlin 1). Fouled out — Waiwaiole, Hill.

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

South Medford freshman Bella Petrogetti lets a 3-point shot fly against Lincoln in the Class 6A state playoffs Saturday at South Medford High. The Panthers won, 57-35. [LARRY STAUTH JR./MAIL TRIBUNE]
South Medford senior Jonnay Foote, left, attempts a layup against Lincoln defender Kate Nichols during their second-round playoff game at South Medford High on Saturday. [LARRY STAUTH JR./MAIL TRIBUNE]