A little extra time in the gym and some help from his dad paid big dividends for North Medford junior guard Jordan Ellis on Wednesday in the opening round of the Abby's Holiday Classic.
After struggling to find his shooting touch for much of the season, Ellis had it rolling from the start against Franklin, making six of his first seven shots and finishing with a season-high 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting to lead the Black Tornado (4-3) to a 73-40 victory over the Quakers (1-7) at North Medford High.
"I was coming off of some bad shooting nights," said Ellis, whose previous high this season was 25. "I worked after practice just trying to get my shot going, and my dad helped me a lot. I wasn't jumping when I was shooting, and I was just shooting from my chest. I felt great tonight. Everything seemed like it was falling in."
Ellis came into the game averaging 12.2 points per game but nearly equaled that amount in the first quarter by hitting a turnaround jumper on his first shot, connecting on a 3, then scoring on an acrobatic layin moments later as he was fouled to help North jump out to a 16-7 lead after the first quarter.
The 6-foot-1 guard, who doubles as the quarterback of North's football team, had 10 points in the first quarter and 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting at the half as the Tornado opened up a 34-13 lead at the break and led by as much as 34 in the second half.
"He had just been a little bit off," North coach Scott Plankenhorn said of Ellis. "It wasn't a lot, we just needed a couple things — let him get in the gym, let him feel himself out and get a little bit more confidence back in himself. I'm hoping he found it. He definitely looked like the old Jordan tonight.
"He's just been struggling overall since he came out from football. It's been a process for him. I know he took a lot of hits in football, so he's still coming back from that. I think he's getting over the hump."
With Ellis pacing the offense, North took control of the game with its pressure, trapping defense, which caused 12 steals and forced 22 turnovers from Franklin. The Quakers also had a difficult night from the field, shooting 37 percent (16 of 43) and 1-for-10 from the 3-point range. Senior guard Michael Collins led Franklin with nine points, seven coming in the first quarter.
Franklin shot just 23 percent in the first half.
"We just pressured the dribblers," said Ellis, who also had three steals. "When they picked up the ball, we were in their faces and made them make difficult passes, which led to steals."
North, looking to win its first Abby's Holiday Classic title since 1994, had all 11 players score and shot 57 percent from the field (30 of 52) with only eight turnovers, five coming in the first quarter.
Senior 6-6 guard Danny Berger added nine points, including a breakaway dunk in the first quarter, and senior reserve guard Almeir Barlow added eight.
The Quakers have now lost seven straight games and have given up at least 70 points in all but one of those losses.
"It's definitely been a while since we've won like that," Plankenhorn said. "We used to win like that a lot back in the day. It was good for the kids to get out and get something like that."
North advances to face West Salem — a 54-33 first-round winner over Battle Ground, Wash. — in the second round today at 7:45 p.m.
"If we get a good run here, we are going to have a lot of confidence going into the conference," Ellis said.
FRANKLIN (40) — Collins 9, Rawls 1, Kunis 0, Henderson 0, Hurlic 0, Snodderly 0, Bahtjak 4, Keilholtz 6, Schoenecker 8, Harte 6, Davis 6. Totals: 16 7-10 40.
NORTH MEDFORD (73) — McLemore 2, Williams 2, Ramirez 2, Ellis 26, Pecktol 6, Berger 9, Barlow 8, Waldron 2, Budavari 8, Maurer 6, Gentry 2. Totals: 29 13-19 73.
Franklin 7 6 13 14 — 40
North Medford 16 18 17 22 — 73
3-point goals — Franklin 1 (Collins ), North Medford 2 (Ellis 2).
WEST SALEM 54, BATTLE GROUND, WASH. 33 — Jordan Bishop scored 19 points for West Salem (2-5) in the opening round.
The Spartans, who play North Medford at 7:45 tonight, held Battle Ground to three first-quarter points.
The Tigers drop into the consolation round and take on Franklin at 4:15 p.m. today. They were led by Kyle Kromminga's 12 points.
ALOHA 60, MCNARY 47 — Michael Boswell scored 18 points as Aloha of Beaverton won the first game of the tournament.
Marcus Smith had 15 and A.J. Stephenson 13 for the Warriors (4-6), who face Clackamas at 6 tonight.
Alex Robinson scored 11 and Tristan Zielinski 10 for McNary (5-3) of Salem, which plays Red Bluff, Calif., at 2:30 p.m. today.
CLACKAMAS 59, RED BLUFF, CALIF. 28 — Curtis Papenfuss scored 13 points and Jake Mauermann 10 to lead Clackamas (6-1) in the first round.
The Cavaliers outscored Red Bluff 36-15 in the middle two quarters. Tony Gagliano tallied nine for Red Bluff.
Clackamas plays Aloha at 6 tonight. Red Bluff faces McNary at 2:30 p.m. today.
Reach sports reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org