South tips North for SOC tourney title
South Medford and North Medford waged another back-and-forth boys basketball battle befitting their season standing, only this time neither team needed extra minutes to settle the score.
Junior Sleezer hit a deep transition 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to give South Medford a lead it never relinquished Friday for a hard-fought 74-69 victory on the Black Tornado court.
“That was a killer shot,” said North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn of Sleezer’s basket that put South up 64-62. “That was followed up by a (Jeremy Gaut) driving basket, and those two plays were as big of plays as there were on the night. After that, we just couldn’t get anything. Even when we got a good look, they erased them with a couple blocks.”
Sleezer finished with 20 points and fellow junior Devon Malcolm had 22 to pace the Panthers.
Landon Ellis led four Black Tornado players in double figures with 17 points.
“It was a huge win for us,” said South Medford coach James Wightman.
“It’s awesome for the seniors to get that second win out of our three games with North, and I’m just really proud of Junior and Devon with the way they played.”
The regular-season Southern Oregon Conference champions split in two previous meetings, with South Medford (14-1) winning 87-81 in double overtime May 25 before North Medford (14-2) returned the favor with a 74-64 overtime win June 9.
Friday’s matchup was equally well contested, with North Medford holding slight leads after the end of each of the first three quarters but never much of a valley between the two teams.
“It was just a good game all around,” said Wightman. “We were making shots and they were making shots and it just came down to the last two minutes.”
Those last two minutes were where the Panthers faltered in the two previous meetings, although they were able to right the ship in Game 1. On Friday, South Medford made the necessary plays to keep the Black Tornado from a potential comeback again.
“It was definitely a highly-competitive, close game all the way through,” said Plankenhorn. “They just had more clutch plays in the fourth quarter than we did. They locked us down and Junior made big plays and they made almost all of their free throws.”
North’s Trey Neff, who finished with 16 points, four assists and three rebounds, knocked down a pair of free throws to cut his team’s deficit to 66-64, but Isaiah McNaught followed with a layup off an inbounds pass and then Sleezer took over from the foul line. Sleezer went 6-for-6 from the charity stripe in the final two minutes and South was 10-for-11 overall before Neff’s game-ending 3-pointer.
Gaut finished with 10 points and Jackson Weiland drew four charging fouls to go with his six points for the Panthers.
Bryce Dyer contributed 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Nick Karrick had 15 points for North.
“I thought we competed on the offensive end really well,” said Plankenhorn. “I just thought our defense was lousy. They did whatever they wanted and executed whatever they wanted. We didn’t take anything away.”
While the Oregon School Activities Association season may have come to a close with the contest, South Medford and North Medford are both entered in an Oregon Madness summer tournament that begins Monday.
“Who knows, we could obviously meet again,” added Plankenhorn. “They’re on the opposite side of the bracket, so if we both win three games, we’ll do it one more time.”
SOUTH MEDFORD (74): Weiland 6, Sleezer 20, McNaught 8, Gaut 10, Adams 0, Bloodsaw 2, Pannell 6, Malcolm 22. Totals: 25 19-24 74.
NORTH MEDFORD (69): McLean 2, Ty. Neff 0, Tr. Neff 16, Karrick 15, Ellis 17, Miller 0, Dyer 15, Goodrich 4. Totals: 22-38 18-22 69.
South Medford16201622— 74
North Medford20171814— 69
3-point goals — South Medford 5 (Sleezer 3, Malcolm 2), North Medford 7-16 (Karrick 3, Tr. Neff 2, Dyer 2). Fouled out — Ellis, Ty. Neff, Malcolm. Technical foul — Malcolm.
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