The fifth-seeded South Medford girls basketball team found itself in uncharted waters at a most inopportune time Thursday afternoon, and the Panthers couldn’t manage their way around it in a tough Class 6A state quarterfinals matchup against Grant.
Minus starting senior point guard Jonnay Foote, who was suspended Monday for a violation of the school’s student-athlete code of conduct, South Medford struggled to adjust in a 56-45 loss to the fourth-seeded Generals in Portland’s Chiles Center.
“It was just a hard game to try and create a new chemistry,” said South Medford head coach Tom Cole. “It really was evident at times, everything was a challenge. You lose a kid who is your starting point guard and the catalyst for so much you do on the defensive end and offensive end and it just was hard. I thought our kids played hard and never gave up, but we could never find a rhythm.”
South Medford (21-6) managed a tying basket by freshman Bella Pedrojetti with 4:47 to go in the second quarter but Grant (25-2) showed tremendous poise in using a 12-0 surge to help close the first half with a 32-22 advantage.
The Generals then opened the third quarter with six straight points to really put the Panthers on their heels.
“That was something,” said Cole of the surge. “That almost took the life out of us but the kids battled back.”
“We got into a rut for a while with the margin great where we were looking for the big shot to break us out of it and it never came,” he added. “The momentum-builder for us was going back to being aggressive and attacking the basket.”
South Medford trimmed its deficit to 49-42 early in the fourth quarter and it was 52-43 when senior standout Lauren Orndoff lined up a 3-point shot that missed the mark with 3:13 to play.
The Panthers went on to miss their next five shots from the field as Grant held on.
“You’ve got to give credit to Grant, they’re very long and very athletic and they were very poised,” said Cole. “Even when we made a run to cut the lead to single digits late in the third and in the fourth quarter, they didn’t get rattled.”
With the loss, South Medford dropped into the consolation bracket and will play St. Mary’s Academy in an elimination contest at 9 a.m. Friday.
In an earlier quarterfinal, the Blues were dismantled by top-seeded Southridge, who got a team-high 19 points from ex-North Medford standout Maggie Freeman. St. Mary’s got 20 points from Indiana-bound senior Bendu Yeaney.
“It’s not a great combination of events for us to have to deal with,” said Cole, “but it’s the reality and we’ve got to pick our heads up and get up early tomorrow and get going because the goal is to try and extend our time here.”
Pedrojetti was instrumental in keeping the Panthers afloat early, scoring 10 of her team-high 13 points in the first half on 4-for-10 shooting, including 2-for-5 from 3-point range.
“Bella really came out and didn’t get rattled by the moment and made a lot of big shots,” said Cole.
South Medford senior Hannah Washington also played a pivotal role, grabbing seven rebounds to go with six points in the first half. Washington finished with 10 points — going 10-for-12 from the foul line — to go with 13 rebounds and three steals.
Orndoff’s ability to attack the Grant defense and draw fouls keyed her team’s second-half rally. The 5-11 senior managed 11 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the free-throw line against 2-for-9 from the field.
The biggest effect of Foote’s absence may have been felt by sophomore standout Ula Chamberlin, who was the Southwest Conference’s leading scorer at 19.1 points per game but didn’t see her usual shots after moving over to the point guard slot.
Chamberlin was 0-for-10 from the field, including six missed 3-pointers, before finally connecting on a shot beyond the arc with three minutes to go in the third quarter. She finished with five points after going 1-for-12 overall and 1-for-8 from 3-point range.
“It was not a characteristic night for Ula,” said Cole. “She knows it, we know it ... it happens. I’ve seen that happen with some really great players that have come through South Medford in my time at the state tournament. I don’t think it’s a reflection of her as a player or us as a team, it just happens. You don’t want it to happen, but it does.”
The Panthers finished 11-for-41 from the field (26.8 percent) and were 4-for-18 from 3-point range (22.2 percent). South got a boost by going 19-for-25 from the free-throw line.
Daryn Hickok had 22 points and eight rebounds and Nina Radford added 13 points and five boards for Grant.
SOUTH MEDFORD (21-6)
Bella Pedrojetti 5-14 0-0 13, Lauren Orndoff 2-9 7-10 11, Hannah Washington 0-2 10-12 10, Shyanne O'Brien-Long 3-4 0-1 6, Ula Chamberlin 1-12 2-2 5, Cassie Fleming 0-0 0-0 0, Lily Martin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 11-41 19-25 45.
Daryn Hickok 9-15 4-8 22, Nina Radford 4-12 4-5 13, Khiarica Rasheed 2-11 3-4 7, P. Ball-Strickland 2-6 0-0 6, Marin Leonard 3-4 0-0 6, Amaya Aldridge 1-3 0-0 2, Alexis Richmond 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 21-52 11-17 56.
3-point goals—South Medford 4-18 (Bella Pedrojetti 3-9, Ula Chamberlin 1-8, Lauren Orndoff 0-1), Grant 3-14 (P. Ball-Strickland 2-5, Nina Radford 1-6, Amaya Aldridge 0-2, Alexis Richmond 0-1). Fouled out—Grant-Marin Leonard. Rebounds—South Medford 33 (Hannah Washington 13), Grant 34 (Khiarica Rasheed 10). Assists—South Medford 7 (Lauren Orndoff 2, Ula Chamberlin 2), Grant 8 (Nina Radford 3, Khiarica Rasheed 3). Total fouls—South Medford 16, Grant 19.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry