Senior wing Jeff Sarsona (3) will be a main factor for South Medford this week. - Julia Moore

Hoops for the holidays

The best toppings on this year's Abby's Holiday Classic are undoubtedly the local ones.

Crosstown rivals North Medford and South Medford will be the featured menu items in the 22nd annual eight-team boys basketball tournament, which begins on Wednesday at North Medford High and South Medford High.

The Black Tornado (6-1) and Panthers (6-1) are both off to hot starts, while the rest of the field is 16-26 combined: Sprague (5-3), West Salem (4-4), Red Bluff, Calif. (4-5), Glencoe (2-5), Thurston (1-4) and South Eugene (0-5) are the city's hoops visitors.

Many of the state's top Class 6A and 5A schools are playing in the Les Schwab Invitational, Barlow Trail Tournament and Summit Holiday Tournament.

Regardless of the quality of their opponents, North and South are hoping they get the final slice of pizza on Friday night, when the championship game is played.

"It's just one of those things you want to win," North head coach Scott Plankenhorn says. "We'll have to play some good basketball to do it."

In last year's title game, the Panthers beat the Black Tornado, 63-56. South held a six-point advantage at halftime, but used a 21-6 run in the second half to overtake the Black Tornado and prevail in the schools' first meeting in the championship since 2003.

A rematch of last year's final tilt would mean that the two local squads would end up playing each other at least four times: They also have Southern Oregon Hybrid meetings on Jan. 17, Feb. 3 and Feb. 21.

The Black Tornado kicks things off against Glencoe at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at North Medford High, while the Panthers open against Red Bluff at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at South Medford High.

In Wednesday's other openers, Thurston plays West Salem at 6 p.m. at North Medford and South Eugene takes on Sprague at 6 p.m. at South Medford.

The Black Tornado topped Glencoe 70-56 on Dec. 20, with Trey Garfas leading the way in a consolation semifinal win at the Lakeside Holiday Classic.

The Crimson Tide owns five losses wedged between victories over Liberty and Aloha.

North features senior shooting guard Derek Mautz, senior wing Chris Faust, senior post Jordan Browne-Moore, junior point guard Oshea Bailey and Garfas, a senior wing.

Mautz has averaged around 18 points per game, while Browne-Moore has turned in around nine points and eight rebounds a night.

"The guys that are returning know what it takes to get there and worked hard in the offseason to improve their games," Plankenhorn says. "We've seen a lot of improvement."

The Black Tornado's lone loss came against West Linn on Dec. 19.

"We learned some things there," Plankenhorn says. "We played solid but nowhere near our best."

South has been led by seniors Jack Delaney, Jack Singler, Matt Ratzlaff and Jeff Sarsona.

"We have played pretty solid defense," South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy says. "I think we've shot the ball better than I thought we would.

"We don't have a big-time scorer. That is another reason we have done well. We share the ball well, and different nights, different guys have stepped up for us."

South defeated Red Bluff 60-41 at the Red Bluff Holiday Classic on Dec. 16.

Red Bluff (4-5) is led by senior forward Jonah McInnis (who averages about 15 points per game) and senior guard Taylor Blaser.

The Panthers' only loss this year came against Lake Oswego, a 72-53 defeat in the championship game of the Red Bluff Classic, on Dec. 17.

"(Red Bluff) plays awfully hard and gets after you and if you don't guard them well enough they'll make some shots," Murphy says.

One exciting player to watch at the tourney will be 6-foot-4 junior guard A.J. Lapray, who plays for Sprague. He scored 40 points in a playoff game against Sunset last year.

Still, nothing should top the local flavors.

"It's our hometown tournament and both teams are playing at a high level with high expectations going into it," Plankenhorn says. "It's a positive for both teams and the community."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email

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