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Turnovers doom North Medford in season opener

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There’s going to be one number that sticks out in J.T. Thomas’ mind after coaching his first game at North Medford in nearly two decades.

Thirty-six.

That total of 36 is the number of turnovers the North Medford girls basketball team had

in its 57-37 season-opening loss to visiting Forest Grove on Friday night.

“It was huge,” Thomas said in regard to the turnovers. “We talked beforehand about our goal is to ultimately get 60 or 65 shots in the game. You come in at halftime and you’re at 20 shots and 20 turnovers, so you do the math. When I showed them the math at halftime, and you put 13 of those turnovers onto 20, now we’re right at the goal for shots because if you don’t have the ball you can’t get those shots.”

Thomas was the Black Tornado head coach from 1999 to 2002 and spent his last two seasons as the girls basketball coach at Cascade Christian.

In coming back to North, Thomas — who also had a successful seven-season run as head coach at Crater — wants to bring some stability to a program that is now on its fourth head coach in four years.

“It’s our first game and we have a young team, so we’re learning,” said North Medford post Kiera McNamee, one of the Black Tornado’s three seniors this season. “It will get better.”

Forest Grove (1-0) never trailed Friday night and was up by double digits for almost three complete quarters thanks to a 16-2 run that was capped by a 3-pointer on the left wing by Katelyn Petersen to put the Vikings ahead 16-2.

Petersen was one of four Vikings to finish in double figures, recording 11 points. Emma Emerson also had 11 points, while Lily Everson and Ally Hammond both had 10.

Jaiden Gallery, another one of North’s seniors, finished with a team-high 10 points. Freshman Olivia Boger scored eight points in her varsity debut.

The Black Tornado (0-1), however, managed to hit double figures in a quarter just once on the night, with the turnovers looming large from start to finish.

“It’s tough. We just get the ball and throw, and it’s the first thing that you want to get it to your teammate but she’s not open and you do it again,” McNamee said in regard to the turnovers preventing North from finding a rhythm offensively. “We’re going to get better (with turnovers) through the season.”

Forest Grove led 30-15 at the half and by the same 15-point margin, 39-24, heading into the fourth quarter. North was able to cut the deficit down to 11 points at 41-30 thanks to a 6-2 spurt to open the fourth, with freshman Caileigh Raines and Boger scoring baskets in the paint.

But the Vikings responded with a fast 12-0 run of their own to push the lead to 53-30 with less than three minutes to go after Hammond’s 3-pointer form the top of the arc.

A lot of it came from the free-throw line as well. In total, 12 of the Vikings’ 18 fourth-quarter points came at the charity stripe.

The two teams combined to shoot 58 free throws, with Forest Grove connecting on 26 of its 33 attempts from the line. North was 12-for-25 at the line.

“We made a lot of youthful, inexperienced mistakes — and I know that’s what I have,” Thomas said. “To a point, you can handcuff that talent out there and the creativity or you can let it be out there and expressing itself. That’s what I told the kids tonight — we need to find out what the expression of us is, so if you’re holding back I don’t get to see, we don’t get to see it.”

North returns to the court Wednesday night to play the second of two straight home games to open the season when it hosts Class 5A Ashland before playing three road games within a five-day span, beginning at Bend on Friday night.

As you might imagine, cutting down on the turnovers will be a point of emphasis for Thomas and company during these first handful of games.

“We just need to be patient on offense and run it,” McNamee said. “When we have practice tomorrow morning at nine in the morning, we’re going to get after it.”

Added Thomas: “This had some good lessons for us, but I love the fact that our kids were not afraid of the challenge and we did not back down from them at all. I just thought we made inexperienced type of mistakes — and we can fix those.”

FOREST GROVE (57): Vernon 4, Everson 10, Hammond 10, McLaughlen 0, Petersen 11, Burke 1, Buchanon 2, K. Ingram 8, J. Ingram 0, Emerson 11. Totals: 12 26-33 57.

NORTH MEDFORD (37): Gallery 10, Patel 1, Hamlin 0, Stevens 5, Raines 4, Richardson 4, Boger 8, Pyka 0, McNamee 0, Lane 4, Harris 1. Totals: 11 12-25 37.

Forest Grove1515918— 57

North Medford69913— 37

3-point goals — Forest Grove 7 (Vernon 1, Hammond 1, Petersen 2, K. Ingram 2, Emerson 1), North Medford 3 (Gallery 1, Boger 1, Lane 1). Fouled out — Vernon.

Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

North Medford junior Olivia Boger attempts to fight through Forest Grove defenders at North Medford on Friday.\\PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR
North Medford sophomore Mariah Lane with the three-point shot in front of the Forest Grove bench at North Medford on Friday.\\PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR
North Medford junior Ali Stevens attempts to shoot past Forest Grove defenders, while teammate Diya Patel looks on, at North Medford on Friday.\\PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR
North Medford freshman Caileigh Raines attempts to shoot the ball through the block attempt by Forest Grove defender Lily Everson at North Medford on Friday.\\PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR
North Medford junior Brooke Richardson attempts to shoot the ball through the block attempt by Forest Grove defender Kai Ingram at North Medford on Friday.\\PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR