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South Medford slips by Grants Pass

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No. 9 Panthers use mid-game surge to deny SWC upset bid

It wasn’t pretty at times but it definitely was more than enough for the South Medford boys basketball team Wednesday night.

Playing without one of their senior leaders, the ninth-ranked Panthers staved off an upset bid by Grants Pass behind a key run between the second and third quarters to score a 73-57 home victory.

South Medford senior Devon Malcolm led the charge with 22 points and six rebounds and sophomore Jackson Weiland added 17 points and three assists in the Southwest Conference win.

The Panthers played without senior guard Junior Sleezer, who suffered a broken finger during Monday’s practice and his playing status will be re-evaluated next week.

“Tonight was really rough,” said Malcolm. “We came out not respecting our opponents like we should have. We know they’re a good team but they’re not better than us, and we came out there thinking that we were going to jump on them like we’ve been doing to all these teams. We really came out flat and it bit us in the butt, really. We’re going to take this ‘W’ and we’re going to go back and practice and go hard, that’s all I can say.”

South Medford (12-2, 2-0 SWC) found itself in a back-and-forth battle at 26-all with 2 1/2 minutes until halftime before a 3-pointer by Boden Howell was followed up with a basket in the paint by Malcolm. A coast-to-coast layup by Weiland in the waning seconds of the half allowed the Panthers to take a 35-28 lead into intermission.

Coming out of the third quarter, Howell and Weiland hit consecutive 3-pointers that ultimately led to a 12-3 run that gave South the cushion it needed to hold off a game group of Cavemen (5-9, 1-2). Howell finished with 12 points and three boards.

“It’s a win, I understand that, but we’ve been giving up 44 points per game and they scored 57,” said Panthers head coach James Wightman following the game. “That shouldn’t happen at home, but again that shows you how big No. 11 (Sleezer) is for us.”

“They just played harder than us,” added the coach. “There was no effort on our part, we were just lazy. We’re better than that and Junior’s a big part of it.”

Sleezer has averaged 13.7 points thus far while also being a mainstay on the defensive end and in rebounding.

“With him going out in practice with an injury like that,” said Malcolm of his chief running mate, “it’s kind of tough on the team because we had to make an adjustment right out of the gate.”

Freshman guard Drew Hall helped fill the void with a solid effort, scoring 10 points with five rebounds. Hall also helped limit SWC-leading scorer Dylan Neufeld to 12 points — seven below his average.

“That was good for Drew, he played fine,” said Wightman.

Luke Morgan finished with 12 points to tie Neufeld for team-high honors, while Owen Alderson added 10 points and Cade Brandes had six points and six boards.

Desmond Clayborne also gave the Panthers a lift off the bench with six of his nine points in the first half.

GRANTS PASS (57): Neufeld 12, Alderson 10, Bennett 4, Quist 0, Gladbach 2, Polen 4, Jessee 0, McLean 0, Sawyer 0, Brandes 6, Isley 5, Morgan 12, Robertson 2. Totals: 20 11-16 57.

SOUTH MEDFORD (73): Weiland 17, Hall 10, Daniel 0, Howell 12, Adee 0, Adams 3, Bloodsaw 0, Clayborne 9, Espinosa 0, Malcolm 22. Totals: 25 15-20 73.

Grants Pass15131019— 57

South Medford22131820— 73

3-point goals — Grants Pass 6 (Neufeld 2, Alderson 2, Brandes 1, Isley 1), South Medford 8 (Weiland 1, Hall 2, Howell 2, Clayborne 1, Malcolm 2).

JV result — Grants Pass 57, South Medford 56

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

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Boden Howell shoots for two points during the 2nd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Devon Malcolm stuffs in a rebound during the 3rd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Desmond Clayborne forces a turnover during the 3rd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Jackson Weiland steals the ball during the 2nd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Gabe Adams fights for the ball with Grants Pass player's Jackson Polen and Luke Morgan during the 2nd quarter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Desmond Clayborne passes the ball for a team score during the 2nd quarter.