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Chamberlin fuels South in playoff opener

South Medford couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the Class 6A girls basketball state playoffs.

The second-seeded Panthers, getting a monster first half from junior Kaili Chamberlin, scored the first 16 points of the game en route to a 61-37 victory over Tigard at South Medford High Tuesday.

South Medford, with its highest playoff seed in four years, improved to 23-3 on the season. It next hosts 15th-seeded Bend, a 64-51 winner over No. 18 Grant, on Friday.

South Medford visited Bend (18-6) in the season opener and won, 75-48.

Tigard ended the season with only five wins against 20 losses, but it placed fourth in the state the previous two years and played higher-ranked teams tough down the stretch this season.

The Tigers had the Panthers’ attention, which might have accounted for South Medford’s rousing start.

“They knew they had to get up for this game,” said South Medford coach Tom Cole. “We weren’t going to be bamboozled by their record. We knew it wasn’t a reflection of the kind of team they were. We know the kind of teams they competed against and that they’re a formidable team.

“I think our kids responded tonight. We made big shots when we needed to, played great defense, controlled the interior for most of the game. I thought we did some good things tonight.”

Chamberlin in particular. She finished with a career-high 28 points, 18 coming in the first half. She made six 3-pointers and added six rebounds and five steals.

“You could tell that she was really into it,” said Cole, who noted that Tigard’s defense focused on senior Bella Pedrojetti.

Pedrojetti had a season-low two points.

“You saw where other kids were ready to step up in her absence,” said Cole.

Toni Coleman kick-started the home team with six points as it went ahead 11-0 in the first 2 1/2 minutes.

A pesky defense and aggressive transition game by South Medford steadily increased the margin.

Bella Stone added a couple layups and Coleman her seventh point on a foul shot to make it 16-0 before Tigard’s Ajae Holdman scored her team’s first basket.

Chamberlin made a 3-pointer and notched a putback after rebounding her own miss of a reverse layup to give the Panthers a 22-4 lead at end of the first period.

Chamberlin, a 5-foot-9 junior forward, added a couple 3s as the half wound down, helping South Medford assume a 40-17 lead at intermission.

South Medford, ranked second in the state coaches poll and the Southwest Conference champion for the first time in three years, had 13 steals in the first half and forced 20 of Tigard’s 24 turnovers in the first two quarters.

The Panthers’ forte is sending defenders in waves.

“We felt the whole year our greatest asset is our depth,” said Cole. “It gives us the ability to play pressure defense for 32 minutes regardless of the personnel on the floor. I think in the first quarter that really helped set the tone. We’re going to come at you all night long. You’re going to have to earn every inch of the floor, and I thought our kids made that happen.”

Coleman scored 11 points. Sierra Logue, who recently returned from an injury, had five rebounds, four blocks and proved to be an important presence in the middle.

“We need to have that to play with other teams,” said Cole.

TIGARD (37): Brown 2, Spadafora 4, Kisor 0, Lamet 7, Gustafson 0, Shimojima 1, Holdman 5, Denham 0, Leavitt 7, Moore 4, Paulson 7. Totals: 11 13-21 37.

SOUTH MEDFORD (61): Chamberlin 28, Coleman 11, Dillard 2, E. Schmerbach 6, Pedrojetti 2, Logue 2 Coley 2, Dahlin 2, Stone 4, Teague-Perry 2, T. Schmerbach 0, Fealey 0. Totals: 24. 7-11 61

Tigard413515— 37

South Medford2218813— 61

3-point goals — Tigard 2 (Paulson 2), South medford 6 (Chamberlin 6). Fouled out — Teague-OPerry.

South Medofrd Junior Kaili Chamberlin dribbles past Tigard defenders at South Medford High on Tuesday.(PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR)