North rallies, beats Grants Pass in OT
After a tough opening month of the season, the North Medford boys basketball team approached the arrival of January as a new beginning.
Through the first two games of 2023, the Black Tornado has found the new year to its liking.
North Medford used a huge fourth-quarter rally to force overtime and beat Grants Pass, 65-62, in the Southwest Conference opener for both teams Tuesday night at the Black Tornado gym.
“We’re down 15 at half, and we just talked about chipping at it each time,” said North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn. “You can’t get it all back (at once), so just chip, chip, chip away — and, goodness gracious, that’s what we did. We played a great second half and even better in overtime. We went 8-of-8 from the free-throw line in overtime.”
In just his second game back in the lineup, North senior guard Antonio Orozco led the Black Tornado’s second-half charge, finishing the night with 28 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
He was also a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in overtime.
“All of a sudden, you throw him out there and he gives us a lot of stuff,” said Plankenhorn. “He gives us steals, he gives us assists, he gives us rebounds, he gives us a defender, but tonight he gave us 28 points. It was a clutch game by him.”
“Just mentally knowing that he was back, we’ve seen him in practice the whole time but the mental change in the kids just once he actually stepped on the floor and we knew he was playing, a lot of stuff changed,” continued Plankenhorn. “We weren’t far off — obviously, people look at your record and say you’re 1-9 (to start the season), but we were thinking we were so close and we didn’t have our guy yet and when he comes back if we can just get over the hump, we might be pretty dangerous. Today, we got over the hump a little bit and did some good stuff.”
Grants Pass (9-3, 0-1 SWC) used a 21-5 second-quarter run to take a 36-21 lead into the half.
But, like Plankenhorn said, North Medford (3-9, 1-0 SWC) just chipped away.
By the time the third quarter ended, Grants Pass was up 45-35 after Ivan Isley hit a 3-pointer right before the buzzer sounded to push the Cavemen’s lead back into double digits.
North’s comeback only continued from there.
Miguel Torres’ steal and layup cut the Grants Pass lead to five at 46-41. The Black Tornado extended it to a 10-1 run to start the fourth quarter to pull within 46-45 after aggressive drives to the basket from Keenan Stewart and Orozco. Stewart’s pair of free throws gave North its first lead since the second quarter with just under three minutes to go.
The Cavemen held a slim 51-48 lead with under a minute remaining, but Andrew Plankenhorn hit a corner 3-pointer to pull the Tornado even again.
Mason Bennett gave GP the lead back twice within the final minute, but Corban Young and the Orozco each had an answer to level things up and send it to overtime.
“Our offense, we just started attacking more, even if they made a basket, and just bringing the ball fast or getting into stuff fast and started attacking,” coach Plankenhorn said of what changed in the second half. “We ran some stuff that we haven’t ran in a while and I thought we did a pretty good job of executing it.”
North trailed twice in overtime, but Orozco was there both times to pull his team even — first sinking a pair of free throws and then sinking a tough jumper just inside the free-throw line to tie it at 59.
Orozco gave North the lead for good, 61-59, at the foul line.
After Bennett’s shot in the paint rolled in to cut North’s lead to 63-62, Grants Pass fouled again, this time sending Andrew Plankenhorn to the line. The junior guard hit both his shots, pushing the North lead back up to three points at 63-60.
Isley — who scored a team-high 20 points — had one last attempt from behind the arc to tie it, but could only draw iron, with the rebound falling into Orozco’s hands.
Grants Pass went 1-for-4 at the free-throw line in overtime and 9-of-19 for the game.
North, on the other hand, was 24-of-28 from the charity stripe Tuesday night.
“That will make a coach very happy,” quipped coach Plankenhorn. “It’s huge. (Grants Pass is) one of the better teams for sure. They’ve got a lot of guys who can play, they’re deep, they can shoot, they can go inside, so it’s a chore to play them and it toook everything we’ve got to do what we gotta do. But that’s what you have to do to win in this league — you’ve got to hold serve on your home floor and that’s what we did.”
Andrew Plankenhorn finished with eight points and four assists, while Stewart also added eight points off the bench. Torres and Young both had seven points, with the former recording three steals.
Bennett finished with 18 points for Grants Pass, which entered the night ranked seventh in the Class 6A state power rankings.
“We’re going to keep searching and finding guys who are going to do it the way we want to do it,” said Scott Plankenhorn. “It’s ‘get W time,’ and the guys that played at the end did a great job.”
GRANTS PASS (62): Isley 24, McLean 4, Bruner 4, Bennett 18, McIntosh 0, Polen 6, Brandes 2, Morgan 4, Jessee 0. Totals: 24 9-19 62.
NORTH MEDFORD (65): Carpenter 3, Klug 0, Carr 2, Torres 7, Plankenhorn 8, Stewart 8, Curtis 0, Young 7, Orozco 28, Kelly 0, Scott 2. Totals: 18 24-28 65.
Grants Pass 15 21 9 10 7— 62
North Medford 16 5 14 20 10— 65
3-point goals — Grants Pass 4 (Isley 2, McLean 1, Benett 1), North Medford 5 (Torres 1, Plankenhorn 1, Orozco 3). Fouled out — Polen, Morgan. Technical foul — Torres.
JV result — North Medford 57, Grants Pass 50.
Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.