South Medford's Matt Retzlaff goes up for a shot against West Salem during Wednesday's game. - Denise Baratta

South Medford cruises past West Salem

South Medford's relentless style of play proved successful in the semifinals of the Abby's Holiday Classic Wednesday.

The Panthers capitalized on a 17-3 second-quarter surge to pull away for a 68-47 victory against the West Salem Titans at South Medford High.

The Panthers' victory sets up their first Abby's championship confrontation against North Medford since South defeated the Black Tornado 95-63 in the 2003 finals. The city rivals split in two other finals meetings.

South Medford has seven championships while North has garnered five in the 20 previous tournaments. The Panthers missed five consecutive Abby's Classics — opting out for the Les Schwab Invitational during the years of Kyle and E.J. Singler.

"They're scrappy," said West Salem coach Scott Cross, whose team was missing two starters. "(Dennis) Murphy doesn't have the height like in the past, but he adjusts his style and the team has well-defined roles. He's been doing this a long time."

Senior wing Josh Havird scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half as the Panthers (8-1) built a 37-20 advantage.

After leading by just four at the end of the first period, South outscored the Titans 22-9 in the second. On eight field goals in the period, the Panthers recorded eight assists.

West Salem (4-5) pulled to within 20-15 on Tae Land-Adams field goal at the 6:45 mark. Then South went on the 17-3 run — getting 3-pointers from Mike Brassel, Havird and Matt Retzlaff during the surge.

"In the first half we were very efficient offensively," said South coach Murphy. "We didn't take bad shots. We got the ball to the open guy and we made shots."

The Panthers' top big man, Tevyn Mercer, struggled with shooting and turnovers in the opening half but came alive after the break.

"It was hard to get my confidence going the first half," said Mercer, who had five turnovers in the first quarter. "In the second half, I really didn't think about points or rebounds but just did my job."

Mercer, a 6-foot-4 senior post, finished with 15 points — 11 in the second half — and 10 rebounds.

"We know (Mercer) has the ability to do that," said Murphy. "He did a better job hitting putbacks and we need that out of him. He played hard."

West Salem didn't fall prey to excessive turnovers but South's pressing style kept the pace of the game in the Panthers' favor.

"We knew they would play a full-court press," said Cross. "There's more to it than just turnovers. They get you into taking quick shots."

Land-Adams, a returning Central Valley all-league senior wing, paced the Titans with 15 points.

A big advantage for South came in rebounding (38-17). Along with Mercer, Kevin Thibeault had eight boards.

Additionally, Murphy had praise for the all-around performance turned in by Havird.

"Josh played well on both ends of the court," said Murphy. "He defended well and helped us in our press. When he plays well, we're a good basketball team. He's stepping up and being more of a leader. And that's something we need."

WEST SALEM (47) — Alderman 2, Juarez 2, Bowman 5, Roth 9, Aispuro 0, Land-Adams 15, Ochoa 0, Rabago 6, Tolbert 8. Totals: 20-45 5-8 47.

SOUTH MEDFORD (68) — Brassel 10, Retzlaff 4, Shanklin-Rice 2, Pearson 5, Mercer 15, Havird 18, DeCoste 2, Marshall 2, Singler 0, Delaney 0, Voss 7, Thibeault 3. Totals: 22-42 16-24 68.

West Salem 11 9 16 11 — 47

South Medford 15 22 12 19 — 68

3-point goals — West Salem 2 (Rabago 2), South Medford 8 (Havird 4, Brassel 2, Retzlaff 1, Pearson 1). Fouled out — Brassel. Technical foul — Brassel.

Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or e-mail

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