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Panthers light it up in Abby's semi

South Medford enjoyed a perfect storm and blew away Forest Grove in the semifinals of the Abby’s Holiday Classic boys basketball tournament Friday at North Medford High.

The Panthers (5-5) had their best shooting game in James Wightman’s four years as head coach and their best defensive game this season in rolling to a 69-39 victory over the Vikings (5-4).

“That’s how you beat a good team by 30 points,” said Wightman, whose goal entering the game was to be within striking distance in the fourth quarter. “It was one of those games where we made everything and they couldn’t make a shot.”

The victory vaulted South Medford into the championship game Saturday at 3:15 p.m. against crosstown rival North Medford, an 80-70 winner over McNary. The game is at North.

The Panthers haven’t won the title since 2012. They have captured nine of the 29 crowns.

North Medford, which claimed four straight before placing fourth last season, has 10 championships on its resume.

Wightman wouldn’t mind a virtuoso performance similar to the one he saw against a highly regarded Forest Grove team.

The teams could play 100 times, said Wightman, and there wouldn’t be a similar result.

“I’m proud of the boys,” he said. “That was a good win.”

Sherman Hunter was the catalyst, breaking out of a mini slump to explode for 25 points, most of which came on seven 3-pointers. All but three of his points came in the first three quarters.

As a team, the Panthers made 12 2-pointers, 12 3-pointers and went 9-for-9 on free throws.

Hunter, a 5-foot-9 senior, tied the school record in the fourth game of the season — his first after dealing with knee soreness — by making eight 3-pointers in a win over Beaverton.

He came close to doing it again.

“He was relaxed and let it fly,” said Wightman.

The Panthers were hot from the get-go. It took consecutive 3-pointers by Braden Hudgins in the first quarter to pull the Vikings within 24-17.

But Hunter, who came off the bench, spearheaded a 13-0 run that made it 37-17 late in the second. He had 19 points at halftime.

At halftime, Wightman’s message was simple: “Just go out and win the third,” he said.

An 11-0 run to end the quarter assured that, putting the Panthers ahead 55-33.

“It was almost like a perfect storm for us,” said the coach. “We shot the heck out of the ball.”

Junior Sleezer scored 12 points, and Jude Pannell and Peyton Shepard each added seven.

“It was a team effort,” said Wightman. “I really think we might have one of the best benches in the state. We have a lot of firepower to bring in.”

Hudgins paced Forest Grove with 12 points, and James Irving added eight.

The Vikings play McNary for third place today at 1;30 p.m. at North Medford.

FOREST GROVE (39): Kribbs 0, Burke 0, Case 2, Clute 0, Ellington 4, Hudgins 12, Miller 7, Littlefield 4, Steltenpohl 2, Irving 8. Totals: 16 4-8 39.

SOUTH MEDFORD (69): Hunter 25, Shepard 7, Sleezer 12, Gaut 5, Townley 2, Harmon 2, Pannell 7, Losinski 4, Dye 0, Booth 0, Cota 5. Totals: 24 9-9 69.

Forest Grove111846— 39

South Medford22181514— 69

3-point goals — Forest Grove 3 (Hudgins 2, Miller 1), South Medford 12 (Hunter 7, Shepard 1, Sleezer 1, Gaut 1, Pannell 1, Cota 1).

ASHLAND 48, ROSEBURG 45: Anthony Smith set the tone for Ashland in the second half with his aggressive play and the Grizzlies were able use a hot shooting third quarter to rally and take down Roseburg in the Abby’s Holiday Classic at North Medford.

The Grizzlies (4-4) will take on North Eugene for fourth place at 11:45 a.m. today in the final day of the three-day tournament.

With the Indians leading 25-20 at halftime, Smith sparked the Grizzlies with back-to-back baskets to begin the third. He scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, with six coming in the third

quarter.

Finn Hilden also added six points in the third quarter and finished with nine for Ashland, which used free throw shooting to secure the win down the stretch.

ROSEBURG (45): Pinard 8, J. Parker 1, Six 9, Olson 6, M. Parker 5, Martin 16, Johnson 0, Kaul 0. Totals: 14 14-17 45.

ASHLAND (48): Whitlock 8, Smith 16, Hilden 9, Sanford 6, Lapierre 7, Barnes 2, Williams 0, Ekwall 0, Carter 0. Totals: 17 11-18 48.

Roseburg1510146— 45

Ashland911208— 48

3-point goals — Roseburg 3 (Six 1, Olson 1, M. Parker 1), Ashland 3 (Whitlock 1, Hilden 1, Lapierre 1); Technical foul — Roseburg coach.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth's Sherman Hunter drives down the lane for a score during the 3rd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth's Junior Sleezer shoots for 2 points during the 3rd quarter.