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Malcolm in the middle of South boys win

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Panthers senior Devon Malcolm totals 26 points and 22 rebounds against Ida B. Wells

Time and again, when South Medford needed a play to be made, senior Devon Malcolm was there to provide it Friday night in the Panther gym.

Be it a momentum-building dunk or a timely tip-in off a free throw miss, the 6-foot-3 standout played a big role as South Medford turned back visiting Ida B. Wells for a 69-54 boys basketball triumph.

Malcolm finished with 26 points and 22 rebounds and was clutch to the end, twice scoring on mid-air putbacks following missed front-end free throws in the final three minutes of play to negate the Guardians’ comeback bid.

“That’s one of the best performances ever by a South player,” Panthers head coach James Wightman said. “He has 26 points and 22 boards, and we think it may actually be even more. I’m going to watch the film a little bit later to double-check.”

“He was just tough,” added the coach of Malcolm. “He dominated the game. He was a difference-maker and he was focused, definitely. He wanted that win.”

Friday’s win boosted South Medford’s record to 4-0 heading into a big week of road games that starts Monday with the Panthers at Clackamas and continues later with the Hardwood Invite in Auburn, Washington. Ida B. Wells dropped to 3-2.

“We set a goal to start the year to win our first games and we did, so that’s a good thing,” Wightman said. “Now we’ve got to keep it going.”

Panthers senior guard Junior Sleezer scored 13 of his 21 points in the first half to provide a steady complement to Malcolm and also finished with six assists.

Freshman Boden Howell scored nine of his 13 points in the first half to help South build a 35-25 lead at halftime, while sophomore Jackson Weiland doled out six assists and Titus Bloodsaw came up with 10 rebounds.

“Bodie hit some big shots and Titus really stepped up in the second half on the boards for us,” Wightman said.

The Panthers carried a comfortable double-digit lead throughout the third quarter before the Guardians started to heat up from 3-point range, finishing with nine as a team on 25 attempts. Nick Digiulio knocked down three of his five 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to help Ida B. Wells trim its deficit to 58-52 with three minutes to go.

After that, Malcolm scored on his first front-end free throw miss with a nice aerial effort, then came back with a rebound basket on South’s next possession and capped the string with another tip-in off a missed one-and-one effort from the foul line.

Earlier in the game, Malcolm also got the rebound on a missed free throw and scored on a putback.

“We joked around that we should make the first one and then just miss the second one so we could get a three-point play every time,” Wightman said of Malcolm’s impeccable timing.

While the offensive effort was impressive, Malcolm also keyed the defense with his shot-altering presence inside.

“Defensively, that’s the best that we’ve played as a team,” Wightman said. “(The Guardians) were averaging 74 points per game and we held them to 54, and they made some really tough shots to get that. It was a great win, for sure.”

Leo Sewell scored 17 points and Jacey Canalin added 16 for Ida B. Wells, which was renamed from Woodrow Wilson High at the beginning of 2021.

IDA B. WELLS (54): Sewell 17, Mathis 0, Canalin 16, Devlin 2, DiGiulio 15, Igarta 0, Heffron 0, Jones 4, Bajali 0, Dahir 0. Totals: 19 7-8 54.

SOUTH MEDFORD (69): Weiland 5, Hall 0, Sleezer 21, Daniel 0, Howell 13, Adee 0, Bloodsaw 4, Clayborne 0, Espinosa 0, Malcolm 26. Totals: 28 11-20 69.

Ida B. Wells8171316— 54

South Medford15201816— 69

3-point goals — Ida B. Wells 9 (Sewell 2, Canalin 2, DiGiulio 5), South Medford 2 (Sleezer 1, Howell 1).

Have a story idea? Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Devon Malcolm slams the ball through the rim during a drive to the basket during the third quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Junior Sleezer shoots for two points during the second quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Jackson Weiland drives to the hoop during the first quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Bowden Howell shoots for two points during the second quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Boden Howell drives to the hoop for 2-points during the 1st quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Boden Howell shoots for 2-points during the 1st quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Drew Hall steals the ball during the 2nd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Junior Sleezer shoots for 3-points during the 2nd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Junior Sleezer shoots for 3-points during the 3rd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Devon Malcolm drives for 2-points during the 3rd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Devon Malcolm drives for 2-points during the 3rd quarter.