South slams North in top-10 showdown
After a spring of down-to-the-wire matchups between top-10 boys basketball squads North Medford and South Medford, the eighth-ranked Panthers weren’t interested in any drama Friday night.
Using staunch defense on one end and a diverse attack on the other, South Medford was able to put No. 5 in its rearview mirror midway through the second quarter and kept the throttle down for a stunning 67-39 victory in front of a raucous crowd at South Medford High.
“It means a lot to us, especially since they’ve been ranked ahead of us the whole time,” said Panthers senior Junior Sleezer, who finished with 14 points, two rebounds and two assists. “It just shows the difference between how good we are and how good they are.”
Given the way Friday night’s much-anticipated Southwest Conference showdown played out, North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn couldn’t disagree with that sentiment.
“They were just way better than us,” the Tornado coach said. “Thirty-nine points ain’t gonna cut it and 67 on the other end ain’t gonna cut it, either. Their four guys that score all the points for them absolutely did a great job against us and we only had two dudes. That ain’t gonna cut it. We’re going to have to fix a whole lot of stuff to get better for next time.”
Freshman Boden Howell paved the way for South Medford (14-2, 4-0 SWC) with 17 points, three rebounds and two assists, while sophomore Jackson Weiland was steady as usual with 16 points and four rebounds and senior Devon Malcolm brought the house down with a host of dunks en route to 11 points, seven rebounds and two steals.
“We’ve got scorers on our team,” noted Sleezer of South’s four players in double figures. “Everyone can score, so we just share the rock with each other. We’re just helping each other out and getting each other good shots.”
As potent as the offense was at times, it was the defense that truly carried the day for the Panthers against a Black Tornado squad that entered the game averaging nearly 70 points per game.
Trey Neff paced North Medford (15-2, 3-1) with 18 points to go with three assists and Bryce Dyer added 10 points and 10 boards, but South limited the Black Tornado to 12-for-41 shooting from the field (29%) and a season-low in points by a 14–point margin.
“Our last two days in practice we really preached to the boys that we’re going right back to all the fundamentals and get after it on defense,” said Panthers coach James Wightman, “because if we play defense, no one can stop us on the offensive end. I’m proud of them. It was just a team effort.
“By any means did we think we’re going to win by almost 30? No, not at all against those guys. Are you kidding me, they’re ranked No. 4 (in the state power rankings). It was all on the defensive end for us tonight.”
It was all Trey Neff to start for North Medford as the 6-foot-2 senior guard scored his team’s first 10 points while Sleezer and Weiland carried the early torch for South Medford.
Malcolm put a jolt into the crowd with a pair of thunderous dunks, the second one coming on a pass off the glass by Howell to break a 12-all tie.
Howell took over in the second quarter, scoring 11 of his 13 first-half points on a myriad shots — from mid-range jumpers to a deep 3-pointer that allowed the Panthers to push their advantage to 29-19 in the second quarter.
It was 33-19 following a seemingly impossible circus shot by Weiland before Trey Neff was able to give his team a late second-quarter lift with a deep 3-pointer and two free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt with two-tenths of a second left until halftime.
The third quarter started with a spinning shot by Weiland and back-to-back baskets by Malcolm — punctuated by a steal and slam — before Dyer knocked down a 3-pointer to slow the surge.
After that, though, North Medford never seemed able to break South’s momentum as it built a 53-34 lead heading to the final quarter and won going away.
Sleezer’s effort was particularly impressive given he was playing with a broken finger on his shooting hand, but it didn’t seem to slow him at all.
“I only had two practices before this but I was giving it my all,” said a smiling Sleezer, “I’ve got to for this game.”
South Medford was 26-for-45 from the field (58%) to win its third game in the last four meetings with North Medford since snapping a 10-game skid.
NORTH MEDFORD (39): McLean 0, Klug 0, Ty. Neff 3, Tr. Neff 18, Plankenhorn 0, O’Neill 0, Young 0, Miller 0, Orozco 5, Dyer 10, Goodrich 0, Dominguez 3. Totals: 12-41 9-15 39.
SOUTH MEDFORD (67): Weiland 16, Hall 4, Sleezer 14, Daniel 0, Howell 17, Adee 3, Adams 0, Bloodsaw 0, Clayborne 2, Espinosa 0, Malcolm 11. Totals: 26-45 12-19 67.
North Medford1311105— 39
South Medford16191814— 67
3-point goals — North Medford 6 (Tr. Neff 3, Dyer 1, Orozco 1, Dominguez 1), South Medford 3 (Howell 1, Hall 1, Adee 1). Fouled out — Miller. Technical foul — North Medford coach Plankenhorn.
JV score — South Medford 46, North Medford 43.
Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry