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Coleman carries South girls into 6A semis

She may be the shortest of all the South Medford girls basketball players, but no one played bigger than Toni Coleman late Wednesday night in the Class 6A girls basketball state quarterfinals at the Chiles Center in Portland.

The 5-foot-4 Coleman supplied a career night and shouldered the load for the second-seeded Panthers, leading them to a third victory this season over No. 7 Sheldon, 56-47, and into the state semifinals for the first time since finishing as runner-up in 2014.

Coleman scored a career-high 26 points on 11-for-20 shooting and added five steals and six rebounds to keep South Medford in contention until pulling away with a 21-11 surge in the fourth quarter.

“That was one of the best performances by a Panther at a state tournament game ever,” said South Medford head coach Tom Cole, whose program is making its ninth trip to the championships in 10 years.

“She’s as fast of a player as there is in the state and I thought she was able to really put us on her back and literally push us to a victory,” added Cole. “Her tempo was really the only thing for us that was working. Her ability to get to the rim and create separation with her steals ... her athleticism really shined tonight.”

South Medford’s 16th straight victory was only its second at the final site since the 6A state championships moved to the Chiles Center in 2015 and moved the Panthers (25-3) into a semifinal date at 3:15 p.m. Friday against No. 6 South Salem. The Saxons (23-4) beat No. 14 McMinnville, 59-45, in earlier quarterfinal action.

The excitement of finally getting back to the semifinals, however, was dampened moments after the final horn when it was announced the Oregon School Activities Association was changing its spectator policy for the remainder of its 6A, 5A and 4A tournaments and banning non-essential personnel.

In response to direction provided by Oregon’s public health authorities and a declaration to cancel all large gatherings of more than 250 people throughout the state for four weeks by Gov. Kate Brown, beginning Thursday morning, only participating students and coaches, essential event staff personnel and media with OSAA-issued credentials will be allowed to attend state tournament contests.

That means no family members or fellow students will be allowed into tournament venues moving forward.

The moves stem from an effort to help slow the transmission of the coronavirus, and follow the lead of several prominent sports associations.

“It’s such a weird dilemma,” said Cole. “As soon as the game ended they made an announcement right on the floor just after we shook hands. It was kind of like on one hand celebratory and on the other hand very disappointing.”

“It’s just hard for all of us,” he added. “Obviously it changes the dynamic completely when you now play games where it’s basically you and the other team and that’s it. I don’t know what to expect, we’ve never seen anything like that.”

Coleman tallied 15 of her points during a first half that saw South Medford leading scorers Bella Pedrojetti, Kaili Chamberlin and Emma Schmerbach go a combined 0-for-10 from the field but still manage seven points through free throws.

“When you play teams three times, there’s no more mysteries,” Cole said of facing Southwest Conference rival Sheldon in the quarterfinals. “The kids that had been really instrumental in both those other victories, to Sheldon’s credit, were really nullified. They were not going to let Kaili and Bella have an impact, at least in the first half.”

Sheldon took a 36-35 lead into the fourth quarter but that was quickly erased when Chamberlin knocked down a 3-pointer to open the period. South Medford had been 0-for-7 from beyond the arc prior to her momentum-building shot.

“That was huge by Kaili,” said Cole, “and then we were able to build a little bit on it with a couple other big plays.”

Coleman followed with a layup that drew a fifth foul on Sheldon senior center Reilly Kelty and then, after missing the ensuing free throw, Coleman tracked down the rebound and found Schmerbach, who was also fouled and made two free throws for a 42-36 advantage.

Pedrojetti later added her first field goal of the game to answer a Sheldon basket and then the Panthers slowly began to put a vise on the Irish offense. With free throws from Schmerbach, Pedrojetti and a pair of driving efforts by Coleman, South Medford was able to erase any hopes of a Sheldon comeback to move on in the championship bracket.

“Like I told the kids, we’ve got to make something out of this,” said Cole. “Regardless of what has happened (with the OSAA banning spectators), we still have a chance to go out and make something meaningful out of all this. This just adds to the memory factor.’

Chamberlin finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and two steals, while Sierra Logue contributed six points, eight rebounds and four blocks and Schmerbach had six points and three steals.

Beaux Bruegman had 12 points and eight rebounds, Makayla Scurlock had nine points and nine boards and Alyssa Mirabile added 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals for Sheldon.

SHELDON (22-6)

Beaux Bruegman 5-10 0-0 12, Alyssa Mirabile 4-16 2-2 11, Makayla Scurlock 3-10 2-2 9, Olivia Pierzina 3-4 2-2 8, Kiran Sperry 1-6 0-0 3, Harley Sowers 1-5 0-0 2, Reilly Kelty 1-2 0-0 2, Carly Wheeler 0-0 0-0 0, Sophie Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Paityn Rhode 0-3 0-0 0. Totals: 18-56 6-6 47.

SOUTH MEDFORD (25-3)

Toni Coleman 11-20 4-10 26, Kaili Chamberlin 2-8 5-6 10, Sierra Logue 3-7 0-2 6, Emma Schmerbach 0-4 6-9 6, Bella Pedrojetti 1-6 2-2 4, Shakia Teague-Perry 1-1 0-0 2, Tanesha Coley 1-2 0-0 2, Bella Stone 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 19-50 17-29 56.

Sheldon1315811— 47

South Medford917921— 56

3-point goals—Sheldon 5-20 (Beaux Bruegman 2-3, Alyssa Mirabile 1-6, Makayla Scurlock 1-3, Kiran Sperry 1-3, Paityn Rhode 0-2, Harley Sowers 0-3), South Medford 1-9 (Kaili Chamberlin 1-3, Sierra Logue 0-2, Bella Pedrojetti 0-2, Bella Stone 0-1, Toni Coleman 0-1). Fouled out—Sheldon-Reilly Kelty, South Medford-None. Rebounds—Sheldon 39 (Makayla Scurlock 9), South Medford 38 (Kaili Chamberlin 10). Assists—Sheldon 9 (Alyssa Mirabile 3), South Medford 5 (Bella Stone 3). Total fouls—Sheldon 24, South Medford 15.

South Medford's Toni Coleman, shown in action earlier this season, scored a career-high 26 points to lead the Panthers to a 56-47 win over Sheldon in the Class 6A state quarterfinals Wednesday in Portland. Photo by Denise Baratta