Neff comes up big in North win
The North Medford boys basketball team had the right guy at the free-throw line with the chance to ice it.
And one after another, Trey Neff swished every shot he took from the charity stripe.
The sweet-shooting Neff, the Southwest Conference’s leading scorer, tallied his team’s final nine points — including six straight free throws in the final minute — to wrap up the 10th-seeded Black Tornado’s 48-37 win over No. 23 seed Sprague in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs Tuesday night.
“Once we got into the foul game late, I knew I could knock them down,” said Neff, who finished with a game-high 22 points, six steals and three assists.
“I’m just grateful that we pulled it out tonight.”
Seeing Neff go to the line so late in the game was certainly a welcome sight for North head coach Scott Plankenhorn.
“He’s a 90% guy and that’s where we wanted the ball in the first place,” said Plankenhorn. “Some teams aren’t going to allow you to do that, but he tracked it down late. He’s just as clutch as can be. He’s our guy and he makes big shots and big plays, and he got it done for us.”
With the win, North Medford (21-3) will head north to Portland on Friday for the chance to reserve a spot in the 6A state tournament. The Black Tornado, which hasn’t advanced to the final eight since 2017, will face seventh-seeded Roosevelt (20-6), which beat No. 26 Clackamas, 62-45, Tuesday night.
“They’re so good, so good,” said Plankenhorn of Roosevelt. “We’re going to have to be much better prepared and play a lot better game and at a higher level. That’s what you’re doing now — you’re to the round of 16 so it’s just going to get better. You gotta lock up the shoes and execute a game plan to the best of your ability.”
To get the win Tuesday night, though, North (21-3) got quite the challenge from Sprague (16-10), which ventured to Medford having lost four of its last five.
“We talked about it all week how (Sprague) was going to fight all the way through the game,” said Neff, “so we had to come out and play physical and as hard as we can all game long.”
The Black Tornado held a one–point lead at the end of the first half (24-23) as well as heading to the fourth quarter (31-30).
North managed all of two third-quarter field goals, but was able to fend off Sprague enough to stay in front throughout its struggles.
The Black Tornado opened the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run, getting a pair of drives to the basket from Antonio Orozco — who was coming off a school-record eight 3-pointers Saturday against Roseburg — and Ty Neff before Brandon Dominguez’s basket in the paint and Trey Neff’s steal and layup in transition made it 39-32.
North’s defense held Sprague scoreless for nearly the first five minutes of the fourth quarter before senior Ryder Skogstad — who had 17 points — knocked down a jumper to make it 39-34.
Trey Neff, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, then was the finishing piece of some quick and effective ball movement by the Black Tornado, hitting his fourth and final 3-pointer of the night to push the North lead to 42-34.
Dallon Morgan, Sprague’s 6-foot-9 senior big, knocked down a trey of his own on the next possession to make it a two-possession game again.
Then came the foul game.
North wasn’t able to get it to Trey Neff during three straight 1-and-1 situations, with the Black Tornado missing the front end on all three occasions.
That drought all changed once the ball got into Trey Neff’s hands.
In the span of 22 seconds of game time, Trey Neff went to the line three different times, knocking down all six of his free throws to clinch the win and send North on to the next round.
“It might add up,” said Plankenhorn of the three straight misses on 1-and-1s, “but not for that guy. He’s ice water.”
“It was a nice way to finish, but it wasn’t perfect, for sure,” added the coach.
“Our shots just didn’t start to fall and then they got some buckets, but luckily we stepped up later in the second half,” said Trey Neff.
Despite North’s struggles offensively, it was the Black Tornado defense that delivered time and time again, holding the Olympians to single digits in all but one quarter, an 18-point second period.
Sprague couldn’t maintain that offensive momentum, scoring just 14 points in the entire second half.
“What we knew about Sprague is that they’re going to bring high energy and hard-nosed defense,” said Plankenhorn. “That’s what wins basketball games, but luckily our defense was there, too, and held them to 37.”
North senior forward Bryce Dyer finished with yet another double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, while Ty Neff had four points and four rebounds.
Morgan finished with 13 points and hit three of the Olympians’ five 3-pointers.
Outside of Skogstad and Morgan, the rest of Sprague’s team scored just seven points.
“(Sprague) played really good defense, but we were also shaky offensively,” said Plankenhorn. “We didn’t really know what we were doing and even when we called plays we didn’t know what we were doing. Part of that was their defense, but part of that is also us just not executing our stuff. We just tried to get to that in the second half and I thought we did a little bit better job. They just do a good job of defending and you just have to step in and make some shots. We just didn’t do that, but we survived.”
SPRAGUE (37): Ralston 5, Long 2, Fleming 0, Smith 0, Rodriguez 0, Skogstad 17, Morgan 13. Totals: 14 4-7 37.
NORTH MEDFORD (48): McLean 0, Ty. Neff 4, Tr. Neff 22, Plankenhorn 0, Miller 4, Orozco 3, Dyer 10, Goodrich 3, Dominguez 2. Totals: 16 10-16 48.
North Medford1212717— 48
3-point goals — Sprague 5 (Skogstad 2, Morgan 3), North Medford 6 (Tr. Neff 4, Dyer 1, Goodrich 1).
Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.