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South Medford lets one slip away

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Central Catholic rallies past Panthers in fourth quarter of top-10 clash

South Medford had the makings of a tough season-opening boys basketball in its hands Friday night, but the Panthers let it slip away with a forgetful fourth quarter.

Central Catholic, ranked No. 6 in the Class 6A preseason coaches poll, used a 12-2 run in the final four minutes to pry away a 48-42 victory over the No. 7 Panthers at South Medford High.

“It’s a learning experience,” South Medford head coach James Wightman said. “We learned a lot from the game. We’ve just got to go back and watch the film and build from it.”

The Panthers, however, won’t have long to make adjustments as they are set to play against Summit in Bend at 3 p.m. Saturday.

“Tomorrow is going to be tougher,” added Wightman, “but the whole goal is to see how we’re doing in the middle of January. As I told the boys, we weren’t going to go 24-0, that just wasn’t going to happen. We’ve just got to go one game at a time, and I made us a very difficult schedule. We need to get tested and it was a great test for us tonight.”

Sophomore guard Boden Howell led all scorers with 22 points and added four rebounds, but South Medford (0-1) withered through a tough shooting night overall (34%) and committed a host of turnovers down the stretch.

“We know that we’re going to get that from him,” Wightman said of Howell, who was 9-for-20 from the field. “We score six points in the fourth quarter and he scores all six. We need someone else to step up.”

Central Catholic sophomore Isaac Carr scored eight of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, while 6-foot-7 senior Gray Thompson played a key role in the Rams (1-0) building a 12-3 lead to start the contest.

The Panthers were 0-for-5 from 3-point range to start Friday’s game and finished 5-for-19 (26%), often seeing the offense stagnate and result in off-balanced shots or wayward efforts from beyond the arc. South uncharacteristically finished with just two assists for the game.

“We’ve got some athletes, it’s definitely there,” Wightman said, “but we’re not moving the ball, we’re not cutting and we’re not setting screens. We’re just holding the ball and standing.”

For all the rusty play that typically comes with season openers, South Medford was finally able to pull even at 29-all on a putback basket by Howell in the third quarter. Inside baskets by Jackson Weiland and Tobias Akpan and a 3-pointer with two seconds to go in the frame allowed the Panthers to build its largest lead at 36-32 entering the final quarter.

In the fourth, South Medford was done in by empty possessions — four in a five-possession span — to leave room for a Rams rally.

A pivotal moment came after Carr trimmed South’s lead to 40-38 with two straight turnovers by the Panthers and when Central Catholic was able to rebound a missed second free throw by Tony Angelo and earn a three-point possession with Carr’s inside basket.

Howell was able to momentarily regain the lead for his team on a tough driving shot, but Angelo followed with his only 3-pointer of the night to put the Rams up 44-42 and nothing worked thereafter as the Panthers went scoreless over the final two minutes of play.

“Defensively, I was happy with only 48 points,” Wightman said. “We would take that every game because we’re thinking we would score in the 50s if not in the 60s most nights. I thought they battled on the defensive end especially. They were bigger than us but we played hard on that side of the ball, but offensively we only went to the foul line five times because we’re not attacking the basket.”

Weiland scored seven points and Cameron Sewell finished with two 3-pointers for six points, while Deacon Edgar tallied five points for South.

CENTRAL CATHOLIC (48): N. Paschal 3, Zeller 7, Berry 0, Scott 0, Angelo 8, Z. Paschal 2, Thompson 9, Carr 19. Totals: 18-45 8-9 48.

SOUTH MEDFORD (42): Edgar 5, Sewell 6, Weiland 7, Howell 22, Henry 0, Akpan 2, Espinosa 0. Totals: 16-47 5-5 42.

Central Catholic1413516— 48

South Medford1011156— 42

3-point goals — Central Catholic 4 (Zeller 1, Angelo 1, Thompson 1, Carr 1), South Medford 5 (Edgar 1, Sewell 2, Weiland 1, Howell 1).

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

South Medford's Boden Howell shoots for two points against Central Catholic in Medford Friday night. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
South Medford's Jackson Weiland gets fouled driving to the hoop against Central Catholic in Medford Friday night. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
South Medford's Boden Howell fights for a rebound against Central Catholic in Medford Friday night. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
South Medford's Deacon Edgar fades for a shot against Central Catholic in Medford Friday night. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
South Medford's Cameron Sewell shoots for three points against Central Catholic in Medford Friday night. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
South Medford's Tobias Akpan recovers the ball from the floor against Central Catholic in Medford Friday night. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
South Medford's Boden Howell shoots for three points against Central Catholic in Medford Friday night. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
South Medford's Deacon Edgar tries to keep the ball inbounds against Central Catholic in Medford Friday night. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]