South Medford's Mike Brassel muscles his way to the basket through a crowd of North Medford defenders on Thursday. - Denise Baratta

South slams North

If the packed South Medford High gymnasium was an ocean, then senior point guard Mike Brassel was a starved shark in blood-filled waters.

He and his Panther teammates lurked, and circled and bumped before going in for large, unforgiving bites against North Medford on Thursday in the Abby's Holiday Classic championship.

Without much warning, South used an overpowering offense and aggressive full-court zone press to eat up North, 63-56.

The Panthers (9-1) held a six-point advantage at halftime, but used a dizzying 21-6 run in the second half to overwhelm the Black Tornado (8-1) and prevail in the city rivals' first meeting in the title contest since 2003.

South never trailed in the victory.

"The run was huge," South head coach Dennis Murphy said. "I thought at that point we were going to break it open. Mike (Brassel) played probably the best basketball game I've seen him play. I am very proud of him for that."

With every 3-pointer and layup he made, Brassel seemed only to get hungrier. Fighting off illness, he scored a game-high 22 points and drained five treys. During his team's hot stretch, he poured in seven points, including a bucket on a hard drive and a crowd-pleasing 3-pointer set up by Sean Pearson's steal.

South also forced a 10-second violation amid its second-half scoring surge.

"If it's your cross-town rival like North, you just wanna keep putting it on, you wanna bury them," said Brassel, who added five assists and four steals. "No remorse."

Senior post Tevyn Mercer was just as deadly, recording 18 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. His arsenal of short jumpers and effort on the offensive glass left North searching for answers.

"We weren't really hyped up," Mercer said. "We were just really focused that we wanted to go over and win the game. We didn't want to joke around. We were just really focused on getting this done today."

The Panthers led by as many as 19 points early in the fourth period, but committed seven of their 15 turnovers in the final foul-filled eight minutes. Though the sloppy effort late proved inconsequential, Murphy still wasn't too pleased about the finish.

"One of the things we've struggled with is maintaining a lead," Murphy said. "I know very well that there is no quit in North. I am disappointed what we did in the fourth quarter. We shot the ball well in second half, but turned the ball over too much."

North had its fair share of problems, too. The Black Tornado's man-to-man full-court press appeared porous at times, and Brassel took advantage.

"When the point guard gets the ball, if everyone else clears out, it's one-on-one and it's like an easy dribble drill," he said.

And on defense?

"We were flying around, flying to the ball, I don't think they've seen (a defense) as aggressive as ours," Brassel said.

Pearson had 11 points and Kevin Thibeault added eight points for the Panthers.

Michael Osmanski scored 15 points and Marcus Ellis and Chris Faust both added 10 for North, which trailed 19-14 at the conclusion of the first quarter. Jared Knox registered six points, eight rebounds and three steals.

"What we found out tonight is we weren't ready for the press, that we have a little bit of fear against their pressure, and we've got to clean that up," North head coach Scott Plankenhorn said. "The good thing is we have video of it and we can go in and talk about where we need to fix things and where we need to play more aggressively."

Both Brassel and Mercer had razzle-dazzle moments. Mercer's follow-up dunk with 1:25 left in the first quarter boosted South's lead to 19-10, while Brassel showcased a sensational coast-to-coast layup, over-the-head, no-look pass and a few splashy triples in the win.

"You have to stick to your fundamentals, but once you get going, and things start flowing around, and you start vibing as a team, then you can start to get some tricky stuff in," Brassel said.

South's Josh Havird, North's Derek Mautz and Faust, Redmond's Brad Carter, West Salem's Tae Land Adams and Beaverton's Ershad Mahmood were all named to the all-tournament team.

NORTH MEDFORD (56) — Ellis 10, Knox 6, Osmanski 15, Artale 3, Browne-Moore 4, Mautz 3, McEwen 0, Howitt 2, Faust 10, Garfas 3. Totals: 20 11-17 56.

SOUTH MEDFORD (63) — Pearson 11, Mercer 18, Havird 4, DeCoste 0, Marshall 0, Voss 0, Thibeault 8, Brassel 22. Totals: 26 5-13 63.

North Medford 14 9 14 19 — 56

South Medford 19 10 25 9 — 63

3-point goals — North Medford 5 (Osmanski 3, Artale 1, Garfas 1), South Medford 6 (Brassel 5, Pearson 1). Fouled out — Mercer, Havird, Knox.

WEST SALEM 50, REDMOND 39 — West Salem clamped down on defense, limiting Redmond to a total of 12 points in the first and third quarters to take home third place.

The Titans got 19 points from Alex Roth and 14 from Jameel Tolbert.

The fifth-place Panthers received 16 points from Brad Carter.

REDMOND (39) — Carter 16, Ma. Dahlen 5, Lau 2, Mi. Dahlen 7, Gerdes 0, Pies 2, Genz 5, Manselle 2, Larkin 0. Totals: 17 5-13 39.

WEST SALEM (50) — Alderman 2, Juarez 3, Bowman 1, Roth 19, Aispuro 0, Land-Adams 9, Ochoa 0, Rabago 2, Tolbert 14. Totals: 16 13-15 50.

Redmond 7 15 5 12 — 39

West Salem 11 13 15 11 — 50

3-point goals — West Salem 5 (Juarez 1, Roth 1, Land-Adams 1, Tolbert 2).

SOUTH EUGENE 74, BEAVERTON 53 — In the fourth-place game, South Eugene got off to a hot start and never cooled.

Spencer Dunlap scored 14 and Brandon Thompson 12 in the win.

Beaverton, which placed sixth, got 20 points from Ershad Mahmood.

SOUTH EUGENE (74) — Ramsay 3, Vanderkley 7, Bowers 0, Wile 2, Craig 14, Barnes 0, Dunlap 14, Honn 0, Banks 3, Thompson 12, Ausland 4, Wells 15. Totals: 27 19-29 74.

BEAVERTON (53) — Cady 6, J. Cunha 2, B. Cunha 5, Marshall 2, Mahmood 20, Bettendorf 4, Richard 6, Bly 2, Losk 0, Lowe 2, Salsedo 4, Bradley 0. Totals: 21 8-12 53.

South Eugene 20 19 18 17 — 74

Beaverton 12 16 10 15 — 53

3-point goals — South Eugene 1 (Banks 1), Beaverton 3 (Richard 2, Salsedo 1).

SPRAGUE 56, RED BLUFF (CALIF.) 45 — Sprague built a 20-point halftime lead, then withstood a Red Bluff rally to place seventh. Red Bluff was eighth.

A.J. Lapray scored 18 and Greg Ellis 16 for the Olympians of Salem.

For Red Bluff, Ian Hill tallied 18 and Carlos Tapia 16.

SPRAGUE (56) — Triance 5, McNally 8, Gage 0, Foote 6, Lapray 18, Kim 2, Brotton 1, Long 0, Ellis 16. Totals: 25 4-8 56.

RED BLUFF (45) — Hill 18, Medieros 5, Blaser 0, Robison 0, Tapia 16, Lewis 6, Webster 0. Totals: 18 1-2 45.

Sprague 19 16 12 9 — 56

Red Bluff 10 5 22 8 — 45

3-point goals — Sprague 2 (Triance 1, Lapray 1), Red Bluff 8 (Hill 4, Tapia 4).

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or e-mail

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