Panthers pulverize GP
The game was already getting out of hand when South Medford’s Toni Coleman found herself ahead of everyone for a breakaway layup with 45 seconds to go in the first half. She missed hard off the glass after Grants Pass’ Elizabeth Williams caught up enough to alter the shot, but Ayla Klingler fumbled the rebound for the Cavers and ended up heaving it back into play on her way out of bounds ... directly to Coleman, who quickly zipped the ball inside to a streaking Kaili Chamberlin for a whiplash and-one.
It was that kind of night for the fifth-ranked South Medford Panthers, who used a 14-0 run at the end of the second quarter to open up a 37-17 halftime lead en route to an impressive 72-38 victory in the last nonleague tuneup for both teams at South Medford High School.
“This game is a game of streaks,” South Medford coach Tom Cole said, “and we happened to accelerate after some streaks today that gave us a cushion to play with a different level of confidence.”
The game — South’s first at home since Jan. 2 — was a sort of litmus test for two teams with Southwest Conference title aspirations after South was picked No. 1 and Grants Pass No. 3 in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll. But three days before their SWC opener against South Eugene, the Panthers instead turned it into their own personal talent show, starring star senior guard Ula Chamberlin. The league’s reigning co-Player of the Year hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points in the first half before finishing with five 3s and 19 points along with four steals. She hit 5 of 8 from long range, including a feather-soft pull-up that gave the Panthers a 34-17 lead with a minute to go in the half.
“I would say it was in the flow of the offense,” Ula Chamberlin said of her first-half explosion, “but we were practicing our 3s in warm-ups so I think that kind of contributed to the game. But we knew we were going to have tough competition so we had to hit some big shots today.”
Bella Pedrojetti, who hit three 3s, added 13 points, Kaili Chamberlin 12 points and 10 rebounds and Shakia Teague-Perry eight points, five assists and five rebounds for South Medford (13-2), which will enter league play riding a seven-game winning streak, its longest of the season.
Grants Pass (9-5), which has lost four of its last five, was expected to be one of the biggest obstacles between South Medford and a league title, especially after last week’s 57-37 shellacking of eighth-ranked Sheldon. But the Cavers struggled to find room or baskets against the younger but taller Panthers, who limited the visitors to only 12 field goals with a variety of zone and pressure defenses.
“I’ve watched (the Cavers) hit a lot of shots in recent games,” Cole said, “and I know this game could look differently if some of those buckets fall in the first half.”
Virtually everybody on South’s roster had a hand in that defensive clinic, but Teague-Perry stood out with two blocks and two steals.
Grants Pass’ Ahdra Klingler, who entered the game as the SWC’s third-leading scorer (15.1 points per game), led the Cavers with 13 points and Grace Gaither scored seven, but no other Caver topped four points as South effectively contested shots then shut down Grants Pass’ second-chance opportunities by dominating the boards, 34-17.
Afterward, Cole downplayed the significance of the lopsided final score.
“We tried to play some defense but I know that it’s one game and we have to play them two more times and they’re not going to be easy,” Cole said. “So we can’t really worry about whether the score was a two-point game or a 20-point game. The reality is they’re a better team than what they showed tonight and I know that they’ll respond. And we gotta get better, too.”
After taking a 14-8 lead into the second quarter, South Medford got a pair of 3-pointers by Pedrojetti and Ula Chamberlin in the first minute and a half of the second quarter to make it 20-11.
Another Ula Chamberlin 3 made it 23-13, South. Grants Pass got back within 23-17 on a steal and breakaway layup by Klingler, but the nice play proved to be the last of the half for the Cavers, who were blanked over the next five minutes — a brutal stretch from which they could not recover.
South Medford, meanwhile, flourished, starting with a nice inside move by Shakia Teague-Perry, then a crafty drive by Coleman, then a baby hook shot by Kaili Chamberlin and a steal and layup by Ula Chamberlin, the latter capping a quick 8-0 run. Next came another 3 by Ula Chamberlin — her last of the half — followed by the wild scramble Kaili Chamberlin finished with the aforementioned three-point play, and just like that the Panthers were up by 20.
Teague-Perry provided a fitting exclamation point to South’s first-half run, swatting a 3-point attempt by Williams out of bounds.
It was more of the same from both teams in the second half, as South Medford extended its lead to 50-21 on Kaili Chamberlin’s fastbreak layup in the third quarter and led by as many as 36 points in the fourth quarter before sprinting across the finish line.
South Medford shot 53 percent (28-for-53), including 9 of 21 from long range, to top the 70-point barrier for the 10th time, including its last four games.
“I think that we pushed the tempo and kept it up and tried to push the ball forward and let everyone get an open shot,” Ula Chamberlin said. “I think we were all looking forward to this because we knew it was good competition. ... I think it’s a good start and everyone’s more pumped and ready to go. We’re all kind of focused now.”
GRANTS PASS (38): Page 0, Rucker 0, Gaither 7, Lingo 0, Ay.Klingler 4, Williams 3, Ah. Klingler 13, Rund 4, Bruner 4, Yount 3. Totals: 12 12-16 38.
SOUTH MEDFORD (72): K. Chamberlin 12, Coleman 6, U. Chamberlin 19, Dillard 2, Schmerbach 2, Pedrojetti 13, Logue 5, Coley 0, Dahlin 5, Teague-Perry 8. Totals: 28 7-11 72.
Grants Pass89714— 38
South Medford14231520— 72
3-point goals — Grants Pass 2 (Gaither 1, Williams 1), South Medford 9 (U. Chamberlin 5, Pedrojetti 3, Dahlin 1).
JV result — South Medford won.
Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 or email@example.com.