South gets it done against Sunset
Rarely are state playoff wins easy to come by, and the fourth-seeded South Medford boys basketball team got a first-hand look at that reality Tuesday night.
Out of sync for most of the first half, the Panthers were able to regroup at halftime and pulled away from No. 29-seeded Sunset in the second half for a 79-55 victory in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
Senior forward Devon Malcolm had 21 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks in an “off” night, and South Medford (22-2) secured its first state playoff win since the championship semifinals of the 2015-16 state tournament.
“The rankings differential was a lot different and we weren’t very aggressive when we came out,” said Panthers senior guard Junior Sleezer. “We were just too confident. But we came out in the second half and showed that we can play way better than they did.”
With the first playoff win for South Medford head coach James Wightman, the Panthers advanced to a second-round date at home Friday against No. 13 West Salem (18-6), which edged David Douglas 76-74 on Tuesday.
“We played hard, we just didn’t play very smart,” said Wightman, who took over for Dennis Murphy after the Panthers’ state runner-up showing six years ago.
“Once we start to go rogue or selfish, it’s not good. It’s a win and that’s good and we’ll move on. That’s the playoffs, you’ve just got to find a way to win.”
It didn’t help the Panthers’ cause that they were already minus starting center Desmond Clayborne and key reserve Gabe Adams — both seniors — when sophomore point guard Jackson Weiland came crashing down to the floor on a rebound attempt just over one minute into the contest.
With Weiland injured and unable to continue, the onus fell to the next-man-up philosophy and, fortunately, South Medford had enough to stave off the Apollos in what was an overall physical affair.
Freshmen guards Boden Howell and Drew Hall each dished out five assists and played well beyond their years, as has been the case all season.
Howell also finished with 14 points and four rebounds, while Hall had 10 points, two rebounds and two steals.
Seniors Mike Adee and Titus Bloodsaw also came off the bench to score nine points in what proved to be extended minutes for Hall, Adee and Bloodsaw.
“We’re short-handed so it’s next man up already, and with Jackson Weiland going down, now we’re down three,” Wightman said of how Tuesday’s contest played out, “so it’s whoever wants to step up can step up. I thought Mike Adee played well and Drew Hall played almost the whole game after playing maybe an average of 12 to 14 minutes per game. Those guys were big.”
Hall was especially pivotal in helping jump-start Malcolm with a couple nice set-ups, although it came as no surprise to Sleezer.
“He always steps up every game,” said the Southwest Conference player of the year. “This game he stepped up a lot, especially with our starting point guard out. There’s nothing else Drew really could have done, he did everything for us.”
Weiland, a first-team all-SWC selection, said after the game he wasn’t quite sure how severe the injury to his left shoulder was and planned on getting an X-ray later Tuesday night.
“Without Jackson, it’s really tough,” said Wightman. “That’s our general right there, but guys stepped up tonight and that was good to see. It’s terrible timing and terrible luck, but it’s how it goes and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Sunset junior guard Jalen Childs scored six of his 16 points for Sunset in a back-and-forth first quarter that saw South Medford open a 15-10 lead at the buzzer on a 3-pointer by Hall.
Senior forward Josh Jackson picked up from there, knocking down six 3-pointers over the final three quarters to finish with 18 points to lead the Apollos.
“We knew they were going to let it fly,” said Wightman. “We knew (Jackson) was going to pull up from halfcourt and (Childs) is a quick, athletic guard that was looking to shoot it. They had nothing to lose.”
A three-point play by Sleezer and 7-0 run soon thereafter in the second quarter that included a 3-pointer by Adee gave South some breathing room up 27-15 and that was about the edge the Panthers played with until breaking the game open in the third quarter behind a 15-6 start.
“We needed a win and needed a little energy booster for the next game,” said Sleezer. “The next game we’ll be ready for it.”
SUNSET (55): Childs 16, Dixon 2, Holboke 2, Zhang 0, Knight 0, Jackson 18, Turner 7, Hurley 8, Floyd 2, Makineni 0, Krause 0, Stone 0. Totals: 20 8-10 55.
SOUTH MEDFORD (79): Weiland 0, Hall 10, Sleezer 14, Daniel 2, Howell 14, Adee 9, Bloodsaw 9, Espinosa 0, Henry 0, Malcolm 21. Totals: 29 15-20 79.
South Medford15192421— 79
3-point goals — Sunset 7 (Jackson 6, Childs 1), South Medford 6 (Hall 2, Sleezer 2, Adee 2).
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