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South Medford girls defeat North

North Medford had already earned one historic girls basketball victory this season over South Medford, and the Panthers were determined to not let another happen Tuesday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.

With the visiting Black Tornado hoping to claim its first season sweep over the Panthers since 2008 — North had already scored its first win over South in eight years on Jan. 31 — South Medford rose to the occasion in fine fashion to build an early cushion and then stave off its crosstown rival for a 51-47 home triumph.

“I think knowing that we’ve never lost to them on our home court meant something to us,” said Panthers junior Ula Chamberlin. “We definitely aren’t a team that likes to lose so that really motivated us. I was telling the girls that just because they’re freshmen doesn’t mean that we can’t beat anyone if we just believe in ourselves.”

With the Southwest Conference loss, North Medford (16-8, 10-2) dropped into a first-place tie with Sheldon and will share the SWC title with the Irish as the Panthers (16-9, 9-3) finished third. It’s the Black Tornado’s first conference title in 10 years.

“I mean, we didn’t want to share it with Sheldon,” said North Medford head coach Tim Karrick. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like Sheldon, but I’m just a little greedy that way as a coach. We really didn’t want to but we knew coming in it was going to be a tough fight. South’s not going to roll over, they’re a good, quality team. They have some good players and one really, really, really, really good player.”

That player proved to be Ula Chamberlin, and she was the springboard to all of South Medford’s early success on Tuesday. The 5-foot-9 junior scored eight points in the first quarter to go with five rebounds and three assists as she spurred the Panthers to a 20-9 advantage. She finished with a game-high 23 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists.

In the prior meeting when North Medford snapped an 18-game losing streak to South, Ula Chamberlin and Pedrojetti were each limited to two points apiece in a 46-34 setback. Each surpassed that in the first quarter this time around despite facing the same triangle-and-two defense spearheaded by North junior Talia Baker and senior Rylee Karrick.

“Ula had much more intensity, I think, and much more maturity,” said South Medford head coach Tom Cole. “She wasn’t trying to beat everybody by herself, she made some great assists tonight, and she was really dialed in.”

Freshman Kaili Chamberlin knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and had eight points in the first-quarter surge to complement her older sister as they put the Tornado on its heels.

“They came out fighting and I thought we came out tentative,” said coach Karrick. “Credit to them, they hit some big shots and made some big plays and we couldn’t hit anything (in the first quarter). That difference early was really the difference in the game.”

All that said, North Medford gradually kept chipping away at its deficit and had the ball inside the final minute down only 47-44 when South freshman Toni Coleman supplied one of the biggest defensive plays of the game. Coleman pressured a pass from North point guard Jane Ersepke to Baker that glanced off the Tornado’s hand toward the backcourt, where the 5-1 South speedster streaked in and broke away for an ensuing layup.

It was Coleman’s only basket in the second half as she finished with eight points.

“She’s the fastest kid I’ve ever coached in our program and she made an unbelievable hustle play there,” said Cole. “The ball was loose and both of them were going at it but she just accelerated and created some separation and got to the bucket and converted. That was a huge, huge bucket because they were rising to the challenge and hitting some big shots.”

Ersepke had led the fourth-quarter charge with five points for her team, then gave way to Karrick as she drained a couple 3-pointers to keep North’s comeback hopes alive. Tornado leading scorer Megan Fossen also managed eight of her team-high 18 points in the final frame to go with her seven rebounds overall.

After Fossen’s three-point play made it 49-47 with 23 seconds to go, South Medford freshman Shakia Perry missed a pair of free throws to give the Tornado one last chance. Ersepke calmly got her team in position and then broke for the basket, only this time her clutch floater didn’t fall and Pedrojetti came out of the pack with the game’s biggest rebound.

“Our girls just fought and fought and had a chance to tie or go ahead with a possession with 10 seconds to go in the game,” said coach Karrick, “and we run something that we get a good look in. You really couldn’t ask more from the group, and they’ve been a hard fighting group all year. It hasn’t always been pretty but it’s just a great group of girls that fight and claw their way.”

With 5.5 seconds on the clock, Pedrojetti calmly deposited both free throws for the game’s final margin as she finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

Perry had seven rebounds and three assists for the Panthers, who were 17-for-36 from the field and 5-for-11 from 3-point range.

Rylee Karrick had 11 points and three assists, Talia Baker added eight points and Ersepke finished with seven points, five assists and three rebounds for North, which was 16-for-43 from the field and was 3-for-16 from beyond the arc.

Both teams are assured automatic spots in the Class 6A state playoffs, which begin next Tuesday. North Medford dropped from No. 4 in the state power rankings as of press time to No. 5, while South Medford moved up one spot to No. 10.

“It is a big win, especially with them being the fourth-ranked team coming in,” said Ula Chamberlin. “It sets us up good for the playoffs, and it’s always just a good one to win anyway when we play North.”

NORTH MEDFORD (47): Fossen 18, Karrick 11, T. Baker 8, Ersepke 7, McLemore 2, A. Baker 1, Graff 0. Totals: 16-43 12-16 47.

SOUTH MEDFORD (51): U. Chamberlin 23, Pedrojetti 10, K. Chamberlin 8, Coleman 8, Perry 2, Schmerbach 0, Laupola 0, Fish 0, Dahlin 0. Totals: 17-36 12-18 51.

North Medford;9;12;7;19;—;47

South Medford;20;11;2;18;—;51

3-point goals — North Medford 3-16 (Karrick 3), South Medford 5-11 (U. Chamberlin 3, K. Chamberlin 2). Fouled out — A. Baker. Technical fouls — Pedrojetti.

JV score — North Medford 45, South Medford 28.

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

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South Medford sophomore Bella Pedrojetti (front) and North Medford senior Rylee Karrick battle for the ball. [ANDY ATKINSON/MAIL TRIBUNE]
South Medford freshman Paisley Fish (left) and North Medford sophomore Jane Ersepke go for a loose ball during the third quarter at South Medford High on Tuesday. [ANDY ATKINSON/MAIL TRIBUNE]