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Tornado takeover in win over Grizzlies

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North Medford puts Ashland on its heels early to win finale of Abby’s tournament

For a bunch of nice young men, North Medford’s boys basketball team can sure make outsiders feel uncomfortable.

That wholesome visage put on by the 10th-ranked Black Tornado belies the players’ true aggressive and relentless nature, which was on full display again Thursday to wrap up the 31st annual Abby’s Holiday Classic.

Wholesome turned to bothersome real quick in the South Medford High gymnasium, with North Medford opening a 23-9 lead through one quarter against short-handed Ashland and holding steady for an eventual 85-45 victory.

“It’s just always been like that,” said North Medford senior Trey Neff of his team’s approach. “We’ve always had the mentality of going out there and just beating them.”

“We’re all good kids and we all love each other,” he added in don’t-get-me-wrong fashion. “It’s just a fun group of guys; I’m glad to be on this team.”

Trey Neff scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half and finished with six rebounds and four assists for the Black Tornado (10-1), while fellow senior Bryce Dyer finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and six assists.

Izzy Golden scored 12 points and Azure McNamara added 10 for Ashland (3-4), which was already without starters Hawthorn Lapierre (one-game suspension) and Toby Barnes (concussion) before losing the services of Egan Shields to an ongoing thigh contusion issue after one quarter of play.

“I appreciated everybody’s effort,” said Ashland head coach Sam Osofsky. “I thought we came out and believed. What a great opportunity for a lot of freshmen and younger guys to play against a high-level team in a really cool environment at the Abby’s tournament. Eventually down the road it will make us better.”

North Medford again used a free-flowing attack built on an active defense creating offensive opportunities in transition to dispatch Ashland for the second time this season.

Time and again, the Black Tornado was able to disrupt the Grizzlies’ intentions on offense and dutifully shared the basketball to get points from all five starters in the first quarter.

“If I don’t have to call stuff then I’m much happier on the bench,” said North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn. “I can call a lot of stuff — and we have a lot of stuff in — but for us to actually play in transition and move it and share it, that’s where I appreciate the game the most and want to play, where you can share it and the right guy shoots the basketball.”

“We just try to let it go and let guys play because there’s so many guys on our team that can make plays,” he added.

Ty Neff scored five of his seven points in the first quarter and totaled four assists, while junior Antonio Orozco turned rebounds into quick assists with his heads up play and senior O’Shea Miller was the recipient of good looks inside the paint to net six of his 13 points in the opening quarter.

Orozco finished with eight points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals.

“We all work together as a team really well,” said Trey Neff. “We pass it and pass it until we get good looks. We came out today and got some easy steals on defense and it led to some transition buckets. We were passing good from the very beginning.”

North’s ability to share the basketball and convert put Ashland on its heels early. It also didn’t help that the Grizzlies had several chances to slow the Tornado’s momentum but were unable to cash in on the good looks that were created.

“No doubt about it, basketball is a make-miss game,” said Osofsky, whose team was 3-for-14 from the field in the first quarter and 9-for-25 in the first half. “If three or four of those 3s go in in the first half and we’re down five or six (points), it looks a little different.”

“I thought maybe with some of our guys out (North) didn’t come out as sharp as they normally play, so it’s hard to really say how that would go,” added the coach, “but I was really proud of our guys’ focus and effort to start that game. I thought we executed well and got our looks, they just didn’t fall early.”

The Tornado was up 25-12 when Trey Neff provided a highlight series of plays that started with a deep 3-pointer, then moved a few feet back for another trey on the next possession before stealing the ball for a transition layup in his own 8-0 run.

The 6-foot-2 guard’s second shot beyond the arc was from NBA range, and he punctuated the long-distance effort with a slight lean toward the basket for a little extra goodwill.

“I just saw it was wide open right there,” said Trey Neff, who has not been shy about trying deep 3-pointers this season. “I didn’t know if I was to take another dribble if some guy would come up and I was feeling hot so I just shot it and it went in. Maybe (the extra lean) helped a little, I don’t know. I was just glad to see it go in.”

The fact that such a shot would go in didn’t surprise Osofsky, who has seen North play at a high level twice now on the opposing bench.

“They’re a really special team,” said the coach. “They’ve got guys with motors and they’re really locked in defensively. They’re going to be one of the teams to beat in the state with the way they execute and how they’re really well-coached on top of it all. It’s fun to play against them because it makes us better, so we always appreciate the opportunity.”

ASHLAND (45): Stowasser 3, Golden 12, Wright 3, Cooper 4, Thompson 7, Barnard 4, Hermogenes 0, McNamara 10, Shields 2. Totals: 16-38 5-8 45.

NORTH MEDFORD (85): McLean 2, Klug 0, Ty. Neff 7, Tr. Neff 20, Plankenhorn 0, O’Neill 0, Carr 5, Young 4, Miller 13, Orozco 8, Dyer 20, Goodrich 6. Totals: 35-59 9-18 85.

Ashland916146— 45

North Medford23182915— 85

3-point goals — Ashland 8 (Golden 3, McNamara 2, Stowasser 1, Wright 1, Thompson 1), North Medford 6 (Tr. Neff 2, Ty. Neff 1, Carr 1, Orozco 1, Dyer 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 North Medford's Treyson Neff gets the ball away from Ashland's Sean Thompson during the first quarter of Thursday’s game.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune North Medford's Antonio Orozco chases down a loose ball during the first quarter of Thursday’s game against Ashland.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune North Medford's Austin McLean drives to the basket during the second quarter of Thursday’s game against Ashland.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune North Medford's Bryce Dyer goes up for two points during the second quarter of Thursday’s game against Ashland.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune North Medford's Treyson Neff shoots for three points during the second quarter of Thursday’s game against Ashland.