North Medford junior point guard Jane Ersepke has always had the talent, she just needed the right opportunity to showcase her basketball skills.
As an underclassman the past two seasons on veteran squads, facilitating the offense was the 5-foot-7 guard’s main focus.
This year, however, with a host of players making their varsity debuts, Ersepke has found herself in a much different role and slowly but surely she’s rising to the occasion.
That was especially the case Tuesday night in a 43-29 nonconference win over South Eugene at North Medford High.
Ersepke had a hot hand from the start, but had to take it up a notch when senior Talia Baker — the team’s leading scorer at about 18 points per game — limped off in the first quarter and didn’t return.
Ersepke equaled her career high of 20 points and was a key component in the Black Tornado (6-6) committing only two turnovers while taking a 27-9 lead into halftime.
“For Jane, she’s always been really steady with the ball and dependable,” said North Medford head coach Aaron Rayburn. “She was able to kind of just run the show before but this year we needed her to do more than that and contribute more on offense.”
Ersepke’s 20 points matches the total she put forth in a season-opening loss to Jesuit.
On Tuesday, Ersepke was able to seemingly slice through the defense of South Eugene (5-8) at will, sparking her team to a 12-2 edge in the first quarter. North Medford shot 11-for-19 from the field in the first half and 16-for-32 overall.
“We needed her to step up today when Talia was hurt and she did and that was big for us,” said Rayburn.
North Medford post Hannah Drysdale added eight points and fellow sophomore Jazmyne Wells had seven points for the Black Tornado, which got six rebounds from Abby Christiansen.
Also providing a lift was a solid defensive effort by the entire North Medford unit, which limited South Eugene to 10-for-30 shooting and very few second-chance opportunities.
“That’s something we’ve been focusing on the last couple weeks,” said Rayburn, “just to be back solid on defense and rebound after a shot goes up. We’re just trying to eliminate easy baskets for teams and making them work for everything. We did a good job of picking up people early in transition, slowing the ball down and getting back and protecting the basket, which made it hard for them to score.”
Taylor Bryant had eight points and Madison McGowan added seven for the Axe.
SOUTH EUGENE (29): Lewis 1, Lucas 0, Harris 0, Galloway 4, Stein 1, McGowan 7, Megert 2, Schmidt 6, Bryant 8. Totals: 10-30 9-16 29.
NORTH MEDFORD (43): Ersepke 20, Wells 7, T. Baker 2, Fish 3, Weaver 0, Kay. Seney 0, Christiansen 3, Thurman 0, Drysdale 8. Totals: 16-32 8-18 43.
South Eugene271010— 29
North Medford121597— 43
3-point goals — South Eugene 0-9, North Medford 3-4 (Ersepke 2, Wells 1).
JV result — South Eugene won.
GRANTS PASS 57, SHELDON 37: At Grants Pass, Grants Pass limited Sheldon to single-digit scoring in the first three quarters of the nonleague game.
The Cavers (9-4) got 22 points from Ahdra Klingler and 14 from Elizabeth Williams.
Sheldon is 11-4.
SHELDON (37): Sowers 3, Washington 2, Mirabile 5, Foutz 0 Pierzina 4, Walk 5, Bartram 2, Scurlock 6, Rygg 0, Neuman 10, Sperry 0. Totals: 17 1-6 37.
GRANTS PASS (57): Page 0, Rucker 0, Gaither 8, Lingo 0, Ay. Klingler 2, Williams 14, Ah. Klingler 22, Rund 3, Bruner 6, Childers 0, Yount 2. Totals: 20 11-16 57.
Grants Pass16121316— 57
3-point goals — Sheldon 2 (Sowers 1, Miarbile 1), Grants Pass 6 (Gaither 2, Williams 2, Ah. Klingler 2).
SUTHERLIN 57, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 51: At Sutherlin, Cascade Christian drew close in the final minute before the Bulldogs pulled away in the Far West League game.
Elliana Hagloch made two foul shots with 50 seconds left to get the Challengers (5-10, 0-1 FWL) within three, but an intentional foul on Katelyn Willard and a technical foul on coach Glenn Johannes allowed Sutherlin to bump its advantage to seven with 40 seconds left.
Emily Stephens had 18 points and nine rebounds for Cascade Christian. Hagloch had 12 points and eight boards.
CASCADE CHRISTIAN (51): Joseph 0, Quast 2, Alexander 3, Meilicke 0, Ferreiria 7, Willard 9, Hagloch 12, Sweem 0, Stephens 18. Totals: 16 19-27 51.
SUTHERLIN (57): Ganger 20, Bailey 9, Masterfield 2, Vermillion 14, Carrillo 0, McHugill 1, Nielson 11. Totals: 18 16-23 57.
Cascade Christian6151416— 51
3-point goals — Sutherlin 5 (Ganger 3, Bailey 2). Fouled out — Willard, Ganger. Technical foul — Cascade Christian coach Johannes.
SOUTH UMPQUA 53, ST. MARY’S 44: At Myrtle Creek, St. Mary’s senior Emma Bennion scored 13 points and sophomore Madi Andrews tallied six of her 10 points during a fourth-quarter comeback that fell short to open Far West League play.
Olivia Lippert added seven points for St. Mary’s (6-5, 0-1 FWL), which trailed 14-2 to open the game but pulled within 19-18 by halftime.
South Umpqua (8-6, 2-0) received 22 points from senior Tayah Kelly.
ST. MARY’S (44): Young 2, Andrews 10, Alvarez 2, Bennion 13, Conner 2, Lippert 7, Christman 4, Ward 4. Totals: 21 1-7 44.
SOUTH UMPQUA (53): McCall 4, Gray 15, Pires 8, Kelly 22, Griffin 4, Ferguson 0, McClure 0, Gibson 0. Totals: 23 4-9 53.
St. Mary’s612818— 44
South Umpqua1451410— 53
3-point goals — St. Mary’s 1 (Lippert 1), South Umpqua 3 (Gray 1, Griffin 2).
JV result — St. Mary’s won.
RV ADVENTIST 43, PROSPECT 12: Rogue Valley Adventist senior Savanah Zamora set what is believed to be a team record with 14 steals in leading the Red Tail Hawks to the runaway Mountain Valley League victory.
The 5-foot-6 Zamora also had 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocks for RV Adventist (9-1, 4-1 MVL), which had 27 steals overall. Paris Quave added 12 points, seven steals and three assists and Madelyn Bennett scored six points.
Prospect (3-10, 0-6) trailed only 6-2 after one quarter but couldn’t keep pace after that. Freshman Tianna McGonagle had four points and four rebounds for the Cougars.