South Medford pins down Ashland in opener
You can’t get anywhere without taking a first step, and South Medford’s boys basketball team successfully navigated that Wednesday in their home gym.
Despite playing without one of their senior leaders, the Panthers didn’t miss a beat in taking an early lead against Ashland and never relented to secure a 66-51 victory in the season opener for both teams.
South Medford senior Devon Malcolm contributed 15 points and 12 rebounds to lead four Panthers in double figures in a game they never trailed despite a good challenge by the Class 5A Grizzlies.
“We’ve been waiting for this and we wanted to come out and set the tone,” said Malcolm. “We have a normal season now so we want to set it off with a boom.”
If anyone knows about booming efforts it’s Malcolm, who put on a dunking exhibition during the spring season and was in full form again Wednesday with a pair of highlight reel efforts.
South Medford seemed stuck in neutral up only 7-2 midway through the first quarter before Malcolm threw a bolt of energy into the mix off a nice setup from sophomore point guard Jackson Weiland.
With Weiland cruising down the right side of the lane, he saw an oncoming Malcolm on the opposite side of the paint and played the ball high off the glass for the 6-foot-3 high-riser to finish with an emphatic two-handed dunk.
“I thought he was going to throw a regular lob, but that was a nice one,” Malcolm said of Weiland’s setup. “Once he got a little closer to the rim, I knew he wasn’t just going to throw it up and he was probably going to throw it off the glass so I was really just timing it.”
“It felt good,” Malcolm added with a wry smile. “I was a little hyped after that.”
His teammates were as well, using that effort to help springboard the offense to baskets on four of the next six possessions in building an 18-9 advantage from which Ashland could not recover.
“I was really excited about the way we competed,” said Grizzlies head coach Sam Osofsky, whose team will next host North Medford at 6:45 p.m. tonight. “I thought we played really hard and I thought we played with poise after we settled down, but we had eight turnovers in the first quarter and we never quite recovered from that eight- to 10-point lead they had the whole game.”
Ashland’s Hawthorn Lapierre finished with a game-high 19 points to go with four rebounds, while fellow senior Toby Barnes added nine points and five assists and junior Izzy Golden had eight points.
Weiland totaled 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists with a cool effort at point guard for South Medford, while senior Gabe Adams scored eight of his 12 points in the second half to keep Ashland at bay after the Grizzlies trimmed their deficit to 45-38 early in the third quarter.
“Gabe Adams stepped up and was huge,” said South Medford head coach James Wightman, “and Devon was huge on both sides of the ball.”
The Panthers (1-0) also got a nice boost in the freshman debuts of Boden Howell and Drew Hall. Howell finished with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists, while Hall scored nine points and pulled in two boards.
Senior Titus Bloodsaw also added seven points and three steals for South, which had only four turnovers and 11 assists as a team.
The efforts were especially important since the Panthers learned earlier in the day that four-year starter Junior Sleezer would have to miss the opener due to illness. Sleezer’s status for Saturday’s 5 p.m. home game against Glencoe remains uncertain, but Wightman said he didn’t expect his team to be without its leading player for too long.
“I think we showed that even if we don’t have one of our horses we can always still play,” noted Malcolm.
As much as anything, Malcolm said the Panthers were out to build on a 14-1 spring campaign and Wednesday provided a good first step — albeit not great given a 4-for-20 effort from beyond the arc — toward that goal.
“We want to win games just like we did last season,” said Malcolm. “We have 24 games compared to the 15 we had last season, but we want to come with the same mentality and with the same game plan to go out there and win and push the ball and keep it moving this year.”
ASHLAND (51): Lapierre 19, Barnes 9, Golden 8, Shields 5, Stowasser 5, Thompson 3, Wright 2, McNamara 0. Totals: 17-39 9-12 51.
SOUTH MEDFORD (66): Malcolm 15, Adams 12, Howell 11, Weiland 10, Hall 9, Bloodsaw 7, Clayborne 2, Adee 0, Espinosa 0, Daniel 0. Totals: 28-56 6-8 66.
South Medford18211512— 66
3-point goals — Ashland 8-19 (Barnes 3, Golden 2, Lapierre 1, Stowasser 1, Thompson 1), South Medford 4-20 (Malcolm 1, Howell 1, Hall 1, Bloodsaw 1).
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