When Megan Fossen took over the Class 6A girls basketball second-round playoff game, visiting Central Catholic of Portland was sent packing.
Fossen, the Southwest Conference co-player of the year, scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as North Medford earned a spot in the state tournament for the first time in 10 years with a resounding 62-34 thumping of the Rams on Friday at North Medford High.
The OSAA 10th-ranked Black Tornado (18-8) will open tournament play against fourth-seeded West Linn (22-3), a 43-39 winner over Oregon City, at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus.
Central Catholic (15-11), the third-place team from the Mt. Hood Conference, came into the playoff contest on a hot streak — winning nine of its last 10 games. But Fossen ended the Rams’ hope of being a team of destiny.
At halftime, the Rams kept themselves in contention — trailing 24-16 — by limiting Fossen to just six points.
But the third quarter was a different story.
Fossen had North’s first nine points of the period and finished with 15 of the squad’s 19 points in the quarter. She assisted on North’s only two other field goals in the third.
The 5-foot-9 senior post began with a layup off a Rylee Karrick pass. Then Fossen finished on another slick entry pass and drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Black Tornado its largest lead to that point, 31-20. Fossen was fouled on a strong move to the basket and converted two free throws that put North up 33-20.
After scoring nine straight points, Fossen found a cutting Ana Baker for layup, then put back an Baker miss and made a free throw to complete the three-point play. She finished the incredible quarter on a layup off a Talia Baker assist just before the buzzer to widen the lead to 43-29.
“We knew we had to come out bringing it,” said a smiling Fossen on the gym floor following the blowout. “Definitely coming into the third, I found my momentum. I had the mindset and I was feeling it.”
Fossen created the opportunities by posting up strong and making herself available inside. She also showed a relentless determination going to the offensive boards to get second-chance points.
North Medford coach Tim Karrick was pleased to have an eight-point lead at halftime but stressed getting Fossen more involved was a major objective.
“In the second half, we wanted to be patient and get Megan the ball,” explained Karrick. “As she goes, we go. She had a player-of-the-year second half.”
While Fossen got the North offense in gear, the Black Tornado’s man-to-man defense frustrated Central Catholic, which tried to push the pace to no avail.
North’s defensive stopper, Talia Baker, did not give Central Catholic’s leading scorer, Abigail Cooper, any room to operate. Cooper’s only points came on two free throws late in the second quarter.
“My main goal as I see myself is as a defensive player,” said Talia Baker, who contributed 12 points, four assists and three steals. “I wanted to chase through the pick-and-rolls. We didn’t want to give her (Cooper) any space and keep her under her scoring average. Once we shut her down, I knew we were the best team.”
“Talia has to use a lot of energy on defense,” said Tim Karrick. “We don’t expect for her to do it on the offensive end, too. For her to give us 12 points was impressive.”
Central Catholic coach Sandy Dickerson had praise for North Medford, which defeated her squad 44-36 in December.
“They move the ball well and finished at the rim,” said Dickerson. “We knew their big girl was tough. We didn’t communicate defensively.”
Rylee Karrick, the coach’s’ daughter, was North’s other player in double figures (12 points). The senior guard also had three steals and two assists.
For coach Karrick, this victory leading to a state tournament berth was the culmination of a long journey.
“This is a group of girls I’ve coached for over a decade,” said North’s coach. “We thought this would be the year for us. For us, for this to come to fruition is special. It’s special, too, having my daughter on the team.”
CENTRAL CATHOLIC (34): Abraham 0, Feimoefiafi 0, Montgomery 0, Raimondo 0, Pitzer 0, Potter 6, Henderson 0, Ridgeway 2, Bass 5, Thomas 7, Burgess 2, O’Leary 0, Scarlett 10, Cooper 2. Totals: 13-41 6-8 34..
NORTH MEDFORD (62): Ersepke 4, T. Baker 12, Wells 1, Karrick 12, Kay. Seney 0, Kar. Seney 0, Christiansen 0, A. Baker 4, McLemore 4, Drysdale 0, Graff 0, Fossen 25. Totals: 17-38 24-33 62.
3-point goals — Central Catholic 2-14 (Thomas 1, Scarlett 1), North Medford 4-10 (T. Baker 2, Karrick 1, Fossen 1).
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or email@example.com.