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North Medford's Jordan Browne-Moore attempts a shot over South Medford's Kevin Thibeault on Tuesday. - Larry Stauth Jr.

Tornado denies Panthers

Marcus Ellis has been called on to do a lot of things this season as a reserve guard for North Medford, but nothing like the task put in front of him Tuesday night at South Medford High.

In his team's biggest boys basketball game of the season to date, Ellis was inserted into the starting lineup for the second straight game due to unexpected circumstances, this time as a replacement for 6-foot-2 senior Michael Osmanski, out with strep throat and tonsillitis.

"He's always a big player for us so I knew if I'm coming in to take his spot, it was pretty big shoes to fill," said Ellis. "I knew I had to come in and play my heart out and do whatever I could to help the team score and win this game."

True to his word, Ellis was one of many Black Tornado players giving an all-out effort Tuesday night and was rewarded for such play in helping North secure a 70-64 triumph over third-ranked South Medford in front of an electric standing-room only crowd.

Ellis scored 10 of his team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter and played a vital role in helping the Tornado stave off a potential four-game season sweep by the Panthers, who were undefeated in their new gym heading into the regular-season finale.

"It's unspeakable ... it just means so much," Ellis said of the Southern Oregon Hybrid win. "We've lost to this team three times in a row and they're undefeated here and we were able to come back here to beat them. It just feels great. I know this is definitely going to give us a big boost heading into the postseason."

Junior post Jordan Browne-Moore was a force in the paint with 13 points and 14 rebounds, while senior Jared Knox had 10 points, five rebounds and three assists and junior Chris Faust added 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots for the Tornado (17-5, 8-4 SOH).

North Medford had long ago been assured of third place in the conference, but Tuesday's win allowed it to put a stronghold on the No. 4 spot in the Class 6A power rankings. South Medford (20-4, 9-3) dropped from first to second in the power rankings with the loss, and also was forced to share the SOH championship with Roseburg after losing two of its final three games.

"The pressure was really on them, they were playing for a lot more stuff than we were," said North head coach Scott Plankenhorn. "We were set in third place and the rankings weren't going to change much either way, but they were playing for a lot of stuff. It was senior night for them, undefeated at home, outright conference championship ... we had a chalk list on the board of things we were playing for that we wanted to try to snap for them and the kids bought in. It was unreal, just unreal. I'm just really happy for them."

The Black Tornado opened a 6-0 lead with a pair of baskets from Knox and one from Ellis and played inspired basketball throughout. North's lead ballooned to 33-19 midway through the second quarter before South finally chipped away to make it a two-point affair at 46-44 with 2:40 to go in the third quarter.

"It was a great effort on their part," said South head coach Dennis Murphy. "They were hungrier than we were. We surely approached it giving them all the respect that they had earned as the No. 3 or 4 team in the state."

North took a 48-44 lead into the fourth quarter, then denied any hopes of a Panther comeback with a 10-2 run to open the final frame. Ellis was especially instrumental, capping the surge with a pair of floaters in the lane to give his team a 58-46 cushion.

"They were scoring, too, and I just knew that we needed an answer," said Ellis. "I was just thinking that I've got to get to the bucket and make something happen."

The Tornado drained 14 of 21 free throws in the final quarter to deny South's comeback attempt, and were 23-for-36 overall.

Senior point guard Mike Brassel scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter but committed six turnovers for South, while Tevyn Mercer had 14 points and eight rebounds and Josh Havird struggled through a 2-for-11 shooting effort to post 11 points and three assists.

As a team, the Panthers were only 22-for-50 from the field and committed 16 turnovers, many of which led to transition runouts by the Black Tornado. North also outrebounded South 33-17.

"I'm disappointed and I feel bad for our kids but you have to bring a better effort than what we brought tonight," said Murphy.

On the flip side, Plankenhorn and crew were all smiles after earning their sixth win in the past seven contests. Tuesday's win was North's fourth over its cross-town rival in the past 14 meetings and fourth in the last 30 matchups between the schools.

"It's great for us, and I think it helps the rivalry because if you don't ever beat somebody there's not really a rivalry," said Plankenhorn. "Now we have something that we can hang our hat on, and they can hang their hat on winning the other three. But at least now there's something going on there."

NORTH MEDFORD (70) — Ellis 18, Browne-Moore 13, Faust 12, Knox 10, Mautz 5, Garfas 1, McEwen 1, Artale 7, Bailey 3, Howitt 0. Totals: 22-46 23-36 70.

SOUTH MEDFORD (64) — Brassel 18, Mercer 14, Havird 11, Pearson 8, Thibeault 4, Retzlaff 4, Voss 3, DeCoste 2, Shanklin-Rice 0, Marshall 0. Totals: 22-50 16-23 64.

North Medford 21 15 12 22 — 70

South Medford 14 15 15 20 — 64

3-point goals — North Medford 3-13 (Knox 1, Ellis 1, Mautz 1), South Medford 4-16 (Brassel 2, Mercer 1, Havird 1). Fouled out — Thibeault, Havird. Technical foul — Voss.

JV score — South Medford 46, North Medford 38.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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