South stumbles at state
PORTLAND — For a while, it seemed like deja vu for South Medford boys basketball coach James Wightman here at the Chiles Center on Wednesday afternoon.
Much like the last game the Panthers played in this building — the 2016 Class 6A state championship final against West Linn — the Lions roared out to a stunning lead and nothing South Medford put toward the basket found a positive result.
The fourth-seeded Panthers were able to respond a little better with a lot less of a hole this time around but, in doing so, expended a lot of energy to make that happen and No. 5 West Linn again seized control yet again to gradually pull away for a 56-39 win in the state quarterfinal.
“We ran into a buzz saw,” said Wightman. “They were the better team tonight.”
“We just came out flat,” added the coach. “It’s unfortunate to get down 13-1 off the bat. There for a while when it was 8-0 I got to thinking of the 2016 game when we were down 23-0 to West Linn in the state title game. I said, uh-oh, here we go again.”
That game ended 74-48 in West Linn’s favor as Payton Pritchard secured his fourth straight state title, and it was another Oregon-bound player who made a big difference Wednesday. Four-star junior point guard Jackson Shelstad went for 26 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals and was instrumental in a keepaway effort by West Linn (21-3) once it held a double-digit lead in the third quarter and beyond.
“We didn’t want to have any regrets,” said the 6-foot Shelstad, who was 9-for-18 from the field (4-for-10 from 3-point range). “We wanted to go in and put our foot on the gas because this is win or go home now. Well not really go home, but we just want to make it to the championship and give it our all so that’s what our mindset was coming out.”
Boden Howell had 16 points and fellow freshman Drew Hall added eight points for South Medford (23-3), which lost for the first time against a team from Oregon.
Junior Sleezer, a senior, added seven points and four rebounds and did a steady job defensively against Shelstad, but he was just too quick and slippery.
Next for the Panthers is a quick turnaround in today’s consolation semifinal against No. 8 seed Beaverton (19-7), which lost 54-43 to top-seeded Tualatin to open Wednesday’s play. The winner of that 9 a.m. game will assure itself a state trophy, either fourth or sixth place to be determined Saturday morning.
“We’ve just got to flip the page,” said Howell. “Our coaches are really stressing on that. We have Beaverton tomorrow and we just have to go take care of business. What we’re all saying in the locker room right now is why not stay until Saturday? We came up here so let’s make it worthwhile.”
West Linn built a 2-0 advantage before any time ticked off the clock after South Medford senior Devon Malcolm was assessed a technical foul for a dunk during warm-ups with the officials on the court.
Senior Zeke Viuhkola, who finished with 16 points, added a driving basket and junior Mark Hamper scored all five of his points to follow for West Linn while nothing was dropping for the Panthers.
It was 11-0 before Malcolm broke the drought on a 1-for-2 effort from the foul line, and 13-1 when Howell knocked down a deep 3-pointer to spark a 6-0 run to close the first quarter.
“When you go down that much, especially against a good team and a good player like Jackson, it’s just tough to come back from,” said Howell. “We just couldn’t pull it out.”
A tough driving shot by Sleezer and another deep 3 by Howell pulled the Panthers within 13-12 two minutes into the second quarter. South and West Linn battled back and forth for the bulk of the second quarter but a Shelstad stepback shot beyond the arc to close the first half gave the Lions momentum up 28-22 at the break.
Hall and Howell kept the Panthers in contention to start the third quarter, but another 4 1/2 minute scoring lull allowed West Linn to close the quarter on a 13-3 run.
With a 44-32 lead in hand and only eight minutes to play, the Lions put the ball in Shelstad’s hands and allowed him to slow the game down, survey the defense and use his ballhandling and burst to finish on his own or set up teammates for open shots.
“When the best player in the state is a guard and you get up even four, he controls the whole game,” said Wightman. “You can go try and jump someone on him or double on-ball but he’s going to go find the open guy.”
Added Shelstad: “Once we got the lead, we started playing our basketball. We just tried to get open shots and didn’t want to force anything.
“They’ve got a lot of good guards and they can shoot it really well. They hit some tough shots but overall I thought we were able to stick to our matchups well and played pretty good defense.”
Malcolm was limited to five points on 1-for-5 shooting but was able to pull in nine rebounds with four blocks and two steals.
Overall, South Medford was 14-for-39 from the field (35.9%) while West Linn finished 21-for-42 (50%).
“We just didn’t get to the basket,” said Wightman. “We were just living 19 to 23 feet, and we were saying, “Let’s get the ball inside and let’s try to go,’ but they were stronger than us. Every time that we tried to get to the basket, they were just right here on our hip and suddenly we were going away from the basket.”
Sophomore point guard Jackson Weiland was a welcome sight on the floor for South Medford and finished with three points, three rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes exactly one week after having surgery for a fractured collarbone.
“Jackson Weiland may be the toughest kid in the history of our program,” said Wightman in a comment echoed by assistant coach Jamie Hammericksen. “He just had surgery a week ago at 3:30 p.m. for a broken collarbone and he played the whole game? That’s tough to do. He and these guys all have a lot of heart.”
WEST LINN (21-3)
Jackson Shelstad 9-18 4-6 26, Zeke Viuhkola 6-13 3-3 16, Mark Hamper 2-4 0-2 5, Peyton Durbin 2-4 0-0 4, Blake Oltmans 1-2 0-0 3, Max Juhala 1-1 0-2 2, Max Hobi 0-0 0-2 0, Drake Gabel 0-0 0-0 0, Trask Veek Petersen 0-0 0-0 0, Jake Holmes 0-0 0-0 0, Joseph Bell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-42 7-15 56.
SOUTH MEDFORD (23-3)
Boden Howell 6-16 1-2 16, Drew Hall 3-4 0-0 8, Junior Sleezer 3-8 1-2 7, Devon Malcolm 1-5 3-7 5, Jackson Weiland 1-4 1-2 3, Desmond Clayborne 0-0 0-0 0, Dylan Espinosa 0-0 0-0 0, Ty Henry 0-0 0-0 0, Titus Bloodsaw 0-1 0-0 0, Gabe Adams 0-0 0-0 0, Mike Adee 0-1 0-0 0, DJ Daniel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 14-39 6-13 39.
West Linn13151612— 56
South Medford715107— 39
3-point goals—West Linn 7-18 (Jackson Shelstad 4-10, Zeke Viuhkola 1-5, Mark Hamper 1-1, Blake Oltmans 1-1, Peyton Durbin 0-1), South Medford 5-15 (Boden Howell 3-6, Drew Hall 2-2, Jackson Weiland 0-3, Junior Sleezer 0-4). Fouled out—West Linn-None, South Medford-Jackson Weiland. Rebounds—West Linn 26 (Jackson Shelstad 6, Zeke Viuhkola 6), South Medford 24 (Devon Malcolm 9). Assists—West Linn 6 (Jackson Shelstad 3), South Medford 4 (Jackson Weiland 3). Total fouls—West Linn 12, South Medford 15. Technical fouls—West Linn-None, South Medford-Devon Malcolm.
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