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Open and shut case for South Medford in Classic

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Panthers clamp down on Roseburg in Abby’s Holiday Classic opener

After not playing a basketball game for more than a week, South Medford was just happy to be back on the court Wednesday afternoon to open the 31st annual Abby’s Holiday Classic.

The Panthers then turned that festive feeling into a runaway win over visiting Roseburg, scoring the first 10 points of the game and ultimately forcing the use of a running clock for the fourth quarter in a 68-27 triumph.

The local eight-team event was supposed to begin Tuesday but winter weather conditions forced the cancellation of Day 1 and the subsequent withdrawal of two teams, which brought about a reshuffling of the remaining schedule.

“Coming off the break we were a little sluggish,” said South Medford senior guard Junior Sleezer, whose team last played Dec. 21 in The Hardwood Invite in Auburn, Washington. “The first half wasn’t as good as our second half but we definitely picked it up and showed out.”

That surge was mostly felt on the defensive end, where the Panthers (7-2) forced 13 turnovers and came up with 12 steals to limit Roseburg (3-7) to 10 field goals for the contest. Four of those field goals came in the fourth quarter after the game had already been decided with South up 57-17.

“Today we weren’t as aggressive as we usually are but we were still pretty aggressive,” said Sleezer, who finished with 15 points. “We forced a lot of turnovers and had a lot of steals so the defense was definitely key for us.”

On Roseburg’s first possession, senior Devon Malcolm poked away one of his four steals and slammed the ball home.

Malcolm repeated that quick start with another high-flying dunk on the Indians’ second possession of the third quarter, and later nearly brought the house down with a deep takeoff and windmill effort that was interrupted by a foul.

“I haven’t done anything fancy all year,” Malcolm later said with a wry smile. “We were up by so much I just had to try a little something, but he undercut me.”

Malcolm finished with 16 points and eight rebounds to go with his four steals, while freshman Boden Howell got the team off to a solid start by scoring seven of his 12 points in the first quarter.

Carter Stedman had eight points and Danil Olson added seven to pace Roseburg.

“We know they like to score a lot of points and we tried to keep it low,” said Roseburg head coach Jordan Humphreys of the Panthers. “We just had too many turnovers and gave them easy lay-ins and then just couldn’t convert the open shots we had offensively. We had it at 18-11 and 20-12 early on (in the second quarter) and then guys kind of went away from what we were talking about.”

After Roseburg trimmed its deficit to 20-12, Sleezer answered with a 3-pointer and then Malcolm had a series where he blocked a shot on one end, stole the ball after Roseburg had recovered and scored on the other end.

Another pair of baskets by Sleezer and a 3-pointer just before halftime by senior Mike Adee suddenly found South Medford back up comfortably at 33-13.

The Panthers then scored the first 10 points of the third quarter to take any mystery out of the final outcome.

“(Humphreys) does a good job with those guys,” said South Medford head coach James Wightman of Roseburg. “He gets the best out of them, we just have some guys that can play basketball.”

“We’ve just got to keep on taking every game as a step,” added Wightman. “Our goal was to come out and get a win and that’s what we did coming off a break. Tomorrow we’re going to challenge them to wake up early and be ready to come out and play hard again.”

South Medford also got a strong effort from senior Titus Bloodsaw, who contributed four points, four rebounds and steady defense, while Adee finished with five points, two rebounds and two assists.

The Panthers return to the court at 12 p.m. today against Forest Grove, while Roseburg gets the final day of action started with a 10:30 a.m. game against South Salem.

With no true bracket this year, there will be no official tournament champion or potential meeting between crosstown rivals South Medford and North Medford.

“We definitely wanted a full tournament and wanted to hopefully end up playing North in the championship,” said Sleezer, “but at least we get to play.”

Added Wightman: “We haven’t won this event since 2012 and that’s something we put down as a team goal and we weren’t able to accomplish that, which stinks. But now we mostly just want to keep the weather away and hopefully keep getting some more games in and keep this going.”

ROSEBURG (27): Mendoza 2, Marsters 6, Stedman 8, Wilder 2, Pike 0, Oja 0, Williams 0, Olson 7, Fullerton 0, Vredenburg 2, Cleary 0. Totals: 10-33 6-11 27.

SOUTH MEDFORD (68): Weiland 5, Hall 2, Sleezer 15, Daniel 5, Howell 12, Adee 5, Adams 2, Bloodsaw 4, Clayborne 2, Espinosa 0, Malcolm 16. Totals: 27-53 9-15 68.

Roseburg49410— 27

South Medford15182411— 68

3-point goals — Roseburg 1-12 (Marsters 1), South Medford 5-13 (Howell 2, Sleezer 1, Adee 1, Daniel 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 Tribune South Medford's Jackson Weiland shoots for two points during the 1st quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune South Medford's Devon Malcolm goes up to stuff the ball during the 3rd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune South Medford's Junior Sleezer drives to the basket during the 3rd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune South Medford's Boden Howell fights for the ball against Roseburg's Colton Marsters during the 1st quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune South Medford's Titus Bloodsaw steals ball during the 2nd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune South Medford's Junior Sleezer shoots for three points during the 2nd quarter.