EUGENE — South Medford was out-rebounded and had one-third the number of foul shots than Sheldon in a matchup of top-10 girls basketball teams Friday.
Still, the Panthers were in position to win the Southwest Conference showdown until defensive lapses in the last minute contributed to a 60-56 loss.
Fifth-ranked South Medford (17-3, 4-1 SWC) dropped a game behind the eighth-ranked Irish (16-4, 5-0) with the second half of league play looming.
“They held serve,” said South Medford coach Tom Cole. “Now, we’ve got to worry about everybody else in the conference first, but it could come down to the next time we play them.”
The Panthers visit South Eugene next Friday, then play their remaining four games in town (the only road game is at North Medford).
Sheldon took advantage of what Cole deemed a tentative Panthers team in the first half, going up 25-19 at halftime and increasing the lead to 10 in the third quarter.
“It was a good game, a pretty good atmosphere in the gym,” said Cole. “For our kids, who are still so young, it really was a lesson about showing up and competing for four quarters. We came out kind of shell-shocked. We were very tentative and not in a rhythm at all. We didn’t play with any real confidence.”
There were other obstacles, too.
Sheldon won the rebounding battle, 27-16, and it shot 29 free throws to South Medford’s 10.
“Those kinds of things on the road are pretty challenging to overcome, for sure,” said Cole. “One of those is difficult, but with both of them being so much of a disparity ... and yet, we still had chances at the end.”
In the final minute, the Panthers failed to box out on three missed Sheldon foul shots, giving the Irish extra possessions. When South Medford did get a late rebound, it turned the ball over.
“It was really frustrating,” said Cole. “Good teams do the little things; good teams focus on boxing out, defensive positioning and better passing. Tonight, we were not very sharp in our execution.”
Kaili Chamberlin paced the Panthers with 19 points, and Bella Pedrojetti scored 17, including two 3-pointers.
Ula Chamberlin added 10 points.
Shakia Teague-Perry led South Medford with four rebounds, and Toni Coleman made four steals.
“It’s really important for us to finish strong,” said Cole. “Our hope at the beginning of the season was to contend for another conference championship. Even though we’re one game back, the goal is still to try to win out and put ourselves in a meaningful place in the rankings for the state playoffs.”
Aly Mirabile led three Sheldon players in double figures with 14 points.
SOUTH MEDFORD (56): K. Chamberlin 19, Coleman 4, U. Chamberlin 10, Schmerbach 2, Pedrojetti 17, Teague-Perry 4. Totals: 22-46 7-10 56.
SHELDON (60): Sowers 12, Mirabile 14, Pierzina 11, Walk 8, Scurlock 9, Neuman 6, Sperry 0. Totals: 18-44 18-29 60.
South Medford9101918— 56
3-point goals — South Medford 5 (K. Chamberlin 2, Pedrojetti 3), Sheldon 6 (Sowers 3, Mirabile 2, Scurlock 1). Fouled out — K. Chamberlin.
JV result — South Medford won.