North Medford and South Medford found themselves on the opposite ends of the Southwest Conference boys basketball spectrum Wednesday night, but for the opening 16 minutes you would’ve been hard-pressed to tell the difference.
When the horn sounded to signify the end of the first half, there was the two-win Panthers jogging off with a four-point advantage in hopes of knocking off an unbeaten SWC team for the second straight game.
Those hopes, however, rolled off the rim and out of the basket like so many South Medford shots in the third quarter as the Black Tornado regrouped just in time to win 60-48 in an energized North Medford High gym.
“Even though we didn’t play to our full potential, we played well enough to get it done,” said North Medford junior Jett Carpenter, who led his team with 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. “Hopefully next time we can come out and play to our full potential.”
North Medford improved to 12-6 overall and 4-0 in SWC play with its sixth straight win over South Medford (2-16, 1-3 SWC), trimming the Black Tornado’s overall series deficit to 53-30.
“This is actually a very big win,” added Carpenter. “It puts us undefeated in league so far to keep us a couple games ahead of everyone else so that just kind of boosts our sails even more. And beating our crosstown rivals is always a joy and exciting for us. Even though we didn’t play the way that we wanted to, we still got the job done and we’re still undefeated.”
North Medford senior point guard Darrius Wells went 8-for-8 from the foul line in the fourth quarter to finish with 13 points, while Jaray Thomas had nine points and four rebounds and Garrett Parker scored all nine of his points in the second half.
For South Medford, Keegan Losinski had 13 points and five rebounds, fellow junior Ben Harmon had 10 points, sophomore Jude Pannell contributed nine points and five boards and Peyton Shepard scored eight points.
“Everyone was doubting us from the start, saying we were going to get blown out,” said Losinski. “Our coach talked about it, we talked about it, but after that big win against Roseburg (last Friday) we just came out with fire.”
Neither team put on an offensive exhibition coming out of halftime, with South Medford’s 32-28 lead gradually whittled away and finally overcome on a rebound basket by Carpenter with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“Jett was just amazing the entire game,” said North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn. “He plays his butt off and made a couple big ones for us when we needed it.”
It was 33-all with two minutes to go when North senior Jaray Thomas drove the lane for an acrobatic layup and followed with a pair of free throws to give his team some breathing room. South’s lone field goal of the third quarter came on a Sherman Hunter 3-pointer with 40 seconds left, and that was quickly answered by a baseline floater from North’s Garrett Parker to help his team take a 39-36 edge into the final frame.
More importantly, the Black Tornado was able to find a little pep in its step after stumbling through a second quarter that put them in a hole thanks to a 23-10 run by the Panthers. The fourth quarter began with a 7-2 run to breath even more life into North Medford.
To see South Medford and North Medford go back and forth in the first half, click below:
“We just kind of started hitting our outside shots and a couple of our guys caught fire for a little bit,” said Carpenter of the turnaround. “We were holding them at 32 (in the third quarter) and for a while we weren’t scoring but once we did get up and score and kept holding them at that number, I felt that kind of created that energy of, ‘OK, here we go, let’s start playing North Medford basketball right now.’”
Carpenter’s third 3-pointer of the game capped the opening 7-2 surge and back-to-back baskets by Parker, including a stepback trey, brought the Tornado faithful to a frenzy up 51-40 with 3 1/2 minutes to play.
“It just takes that one guy to really light the spark and I feel that once that one guy lights the spark, it kind of ignites the whole fire for the team,” said Carpenter. “Once that happened, it kind of just took over from there.”
South Medford used a series of baskets by Pannell and Losinski to keep the game close to the end, but Wells simply wouldn’t leave the door open with his perfect parade to the free-throw line in the final 90 seconds.
Despite creating the close call, Panthers head coach James Wightman wasn’t in the mood for any handshakes or well-wishes.
“Another moral victory? We are undefeated on moral victories,” said the third-year coach. “But that’s just not what we’re about.”
For his part, Plankenhorn wasn’t exactly turning cartwheels outside the Tornado locker room.
“Other teams are going to show up and play, and the rival definitely is going to show up and play,” he said. “We just went through the motions in the second quarter after getting off to a really good start. I thought we had a stranglehold on it pretty early and then we let things happen and guys stopped making shots and we stopped guarding. If you let a team start all of a sudden believing then, guess what, we’re down at halftime.”
North Medford shot 6-for-11 from 3-point range to help its cause in the first half and finished 8-for-21 overall from beyond the arc, while South Medford converted only 2 of 15 3-pointers all night and, after going 9-for-21 from the field in the first half, finished 16-for-51.
SOUTH MEDFORD (48): Hunter 3, Shepard 8, DeBoer 0, Bottero 2, Harmon 10, Pannell 9, Losinski 13, Ramsay 3. Totals: 16-51 15-20 48.
NORTH MEDFORD (60): Wells 13, Thomas 9, Carpenter 14, Parker 9, Spence 4, Orozco-Bernal 6, Karrick 3, Ellis 0, Angulo 2. Totals: 18-43 16-18 60.
South Medford923412— 48
North Medford18101121— 60
3-point goals — South Medford 2-15 (Harmon 1, Hunter 1), North Medford 8-21 (Wells 1, Thomas 1, Carpenter 3, Parker 1, Orozco-Bernal 1, Karrick 1). Fouled out — Thomas. Technical foul — North Medford coach Plankenhorn.
JV score — North Medford 55, South Medford 32.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry