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South secures fourth-place trophy

Howell scores 32 as Panthers tie for fifth-best finish in school history

PORTLAND — There wasn’t a lot of jumping around and celebrating, just a few sighs of relief amid a host of broad smiles and hugs among the South Medford boys basketball team Saturday morning here at the Chiles Center.

With a quiet confidence — often belying the years of experience on the court — the fourth-seeded Panthers wrapped up a stellar season by stunning No. 7 Roosevelt with an early onslaught before holding on for a 79-75 triumph in the fourth-place championship of the Class 6A state tournament.

“It was a tough game,” said Panthers freshman Boden Howell, who was named to the all-tournament second team. “Roosevelt’s a great team with a lot of skilled players, but we kept our head in it and were able to get it done.”

“We’ve got a great group of guys, I wouldn’t rather be out here with anyone else,” he added. “When we play together, we’re pretty hard to stop so that’s all we had to do.”

The fourth-place trophy earned by South Medford (25-3) tied for the fifth-best finish in school history. The Panthers previously won the 2007 state championship, finished runner-up in 2006 and 2016, third in 1996 and also fourth in 2004.

“They just put themselves in the history books and nobody can take that away from them,” said South Medford head coach James Wightman. “We’re just super proud of them, it was great stuff up here.”

On the biggest stage for the first time in his prep career, no one was more pivotal for the Panthers than the 6-foot-3 Howell. The freshman standout was a sensational 7-for-13 from the field for 20 points to go with six rebounds and two assists in the first half alone as South built a 45-30 advantage.

Howell finished with a game-high 32 points on 11-for-20 shooting (4-for-8 from 3-point range) to go with nine rebounds and four assists against the Roughriders (22-8).

“Boden Howell, what else do you say, he’s so special,” said Wightman. “Thirty-two and nine boards as a freshman in a fourth-place game against one of the most talented teams in the state? That’s a statement. He is the best freshman in the state, I don’t think there is even a question about that now.”

Howell averaged 20.3 points per game at the 6A tourney and was joined by fellow freshman Drew Hall and sophomore Jackson Weiland in knocking down clutch free throws to stave off Roosevelt’s comeback bid. The trio combined to go 7-for-8 from the foul line in the final 43 seconds.

“It definitely has been a cool experience,” said Howell of his state run. “I’m hoping to be up here my next three years and hopefully bring home a ring.”

Weiland was his usual steady self by going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc and 5-for-7 overall for 13 points and three assists in the first half. Despite playing with a fractured collarbone, the 6-foot point guard finished with 16 points, four assists and only two turnovers despite Roosevelt’s constant pressure.

“Jackson Weiland, at 80%, is still unbelievable,” said Wightman. “They were all into us and he’s our point guard and he helped us survive.”

South Medford seniors Devon Malcolm, Junior Sleezer and Gabe Adams also played key roles Saturday to cap their careers. Malcolm produced 10 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with six minutes to play, while Sleezer headed up South’s defensive effort to go with five rebounds and two blocks and Adams came off the bench for 10 key points in his 17 minutes.

“I prayed the night before and I just wanted to give the team all I could ever give them,” said Adams. “I’m not in the starting lineup or anything but I just wanted to give the team as much as I could to help them, and I did that, I accomplished my goal.”

The effort by Adams certainly was not lost on Wightman.

“Gabe Adams was enormous for us,” said the coach. “This is a kid that sometimes is not playing a lot but you never know when your number is going to get called. It got called and he took advantage of it and he was a huge reason why we won the game.”

South Medford couldn’t have asked for a better start, going 8-for-16 from beyond the arc in the first half while Roosevelt struggled to find its touch at 1-for-10 from 3-point range and found itself outrebounded 22-17 by the Panthers.

South Medford built its largest lead at 21 points on a monster dunk by Malcolm off a feed from Weiland, but the Roughriders would not go away quietly.

“I was kind of shocked that we were up 21 in the third,” said Wightman. “I looked at my staff and said, ‘They’re going to go on a run.’ And then they started cranking it up. They are the most talented team in the state. They are loaded and there’s a reason they were won of the preseason favorites to win it all, all five guys on the floor can really play.”

“We knew it was not going to be a 20- to 30-point win,” he added. “They were going to come back for sure.”

South Medford’s 62-46 lead heading into the final quarter immediately was whittled down after three straight turnovers that Roosevelt was able to capitalize on for a 6-0 run.

It was 63-56 when Hall scored off a nice pass from Howell and, after Roosevelt standout Terrence Hill scored on a reverse layup, Adams drew a charge and later made a baseline jumper off another Howell setup to keep the scoreboard moving for South.

Still, Hill added a 3-pointer — he finished with 24 points — and Raysean Seamster’s dunk put South’s lead at 69-67 with 2:29 to go.

Sleezer answered with a free throw and Weiland forced a turnover that resulted in a driving basket by Howell to give South breathing room again, only to see Roosevelt respond with four straight points to make it 72-71 with 59 seconds to go.

After that, it was a parade to the free-throw line that South made the most of to put a stamp on the program’s first trip back to the state tourney in six years.

“Winning this one just solidifies us as a family,” said a grateful Adams. “We’ll know each other forever and come back and visit and forever be a family.”

ROOSEVELT (22-8)

Terrence Hill 7-13 8-9 24, Raysean Seamster 6-12 4-6 16, Donatello Tupper 5-9 3-6 14, Chance White 2-9 3-5 8, Utrillo Morris 3-8 2-2 8, Beya Kim 2-6 1-2 5, A. Jimenez-Garcia 0-1 0-0 0, Henry Frish 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 25-58 21-30 75.

SOUTH MEDFORD (25-3)

Boden Howell 11-20 6-7 32, Jackson Weiland 5-9 3-4 16, Gabe Adams 4-5 1-1 10, Devon Malcolm 4-7 2-2 10, Junior Sleezer 1-10 1-2 4, Drew Hall 1-1 2-3 4, Desmond Clayborne 1-4 0-0 3, Titus Bloodsaw 0-1 0-0 0, Mike Adee 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 27-58 15-19 79.

Roosevelt14161629— 75

South Medford23221717— 79

3-point goals—Roosevelt 4-19 (Terrence Hill 2-6, Donatello Tupper 1-2, Chance White 1-5, A. Jimenez-Garcia 0-1, Utrillo Morris 0-2, Raysean Seamster 0-3), South Medford 10-21 (Boden Howell 4-8, Jackson Weiland 3-4, Junior Sleezer 1-5, Gabe Adams 1-1, Desmond Clayborne 1-2, Mike Adee 0-1). Fouled out—Roosevelt-None, South Medford-Devon Malcolm. Rebounds—Roosevelt 29 (Beya Kim 6, Donatello Tupper 6, Raysean Seamster 6), South Medford 37 (Boden Howell 9). Assists—Roosevelt 8 (Utrillo Morris 4), South Medford 10 (Jackson Weiland 4, Boden Howell 4). Total fouls—Roosevelt 17, South Medford 21.

Have a story idea? Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

South Medford celebrates after receiving its fourth-place trophy at the Class 6A boys basketball state tournament. Kris Henry / Mail Tribune