Weiland powers Panthers past Axe
South Medford sophomore Jackson Weiland steadily went about his business Saturday afternoon, and the fifth-ranked Panthers followed along in a 71-41 runaway win over visiting South Eugene.
The Southwest Conference-leading Panthers used a pair of quarter-opening runs in the middle of the game to put the Axe away, with Weiland as involved as any for South Medford.
The 6-foot standout finished with a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in an unusual double-double for a point guard. Weiland also totaled three assists and three steals as the Panthers remained unbeaten against Oregon teams this winter.
“Jackson’s tough,” said South Medford head coach James Wightman. “I think he’s the best point guard in the league and he can shoot the ball very, very well. Defensively, he gets after it, too.”
South Medford (17-2, 7-0) earned its 11th straight victory Saturday, but it took the Panthers until the second quarter to really come alive.
Freshman Boden Howell scored seven of his 10 points in the second quarter and Devon Malcolm turned consecutive steals into layups before Weiland punctuated a 16-7 run with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The Panthers removed all doubt on the outcome with a torrid start to the third quarter, with Weiland scoring 10 of the first 12 points for South out of the break before Howell knocked down his second 3-pointer of the game to build a 44-18 cushion.
“He’s just smart and he’s a general out there,” Wightman added of Weiland. “We still have not seen the best of him yet, of course.”
Malcolm finished with 11 points and four steals — making that 10 steals in two games — despite sitting out most of the second half, while Junior Sleezer added eight points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals in an extremely patient performance.
“Junior was solid again tonight for us,” Wightman said. “He didn’t score a lot, but he didn’t really need to. He was guarding their best player for a while and did a little bit of everything for us.”
Senior Desmond Clayborne added six points and three steals as the Panthers turned over the Axe 25 times overall.
Oscar James scored 12 points and Solomon Nice added 10 to pace South Eugene (4-13, 2-5).
South Medford again relied on its defense to set the tone Saturday, repeating a performance from Friday night by limiting South Eugene to single-digit scoring in each of the first three quarters. The Panthers accomplished that against Roseburg a night prior and limited the Indians to 29 points overall.
Still, Wightman said his team has room to grow — especially when it comes to the second day of back-to-back contests on a schedule this year with a handful of Friday-Saturday tilts.
“The two games in two days thing is biting us a little,” Wightman said, “but as we told them at halftime, if we want to play well at the state tournament that’s three games in three days, so we need to step it up.”
SOUTH EUGENE (41): Herbert 6, Fahl 2, P. Saunders 3, James 12, Sabbato 2, Vellutini 2, Nice 10, T. Saunders 4. Totals: 15 8-8 41.
SOUTH MEDFORD (71): Weiland 19, Hall 4, Sleezer 8, Daniel 0, Howell 10, Adee 6, Bloodsaw 5, Clayborne 6, Espinosa 2, Malcolm 11. Totals: 27 8-13 71.
South Eugene79718— 41
South Medford10192121— 71
3-point goals — South Eugene 3 (P. Saunders 1, James 1, Nice 1), South Medford 9 (Weiland 3, Sleezer 1, Howell 2, Adee 2, Bloodsaw 1). Fouled out — P. Saunders.
JV score — South Medford 64, South Eugene 48
Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry