Directives from North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn and his staff remain the same whether it’s coming out of the locker room for the first quarter or the third quarter, but there’s just something about the latter that brings the Black Tornado to life.
North Medford didn’t play poorly by any means during the first half of Friday’s key Southwest Conference boys basketball clash with South Eugene, but there was no denying that the team’s winning formula stemmed from a third-quarter surge that led to a 67-58 triumph in the Black Tornado gym.
North Medford (11-6, 3-0 SWC) pushed a four-point halftime advantage to a comfortable double-digit margin by outscoring the Axe 19-9 in yet another pivotal third quarter for the home team.
“Right now the third quarters have been huge for us every single game lately,” said Plankenhorn. “It’s nice to have that in the bag but hopefully we can find a first quarter and second quarter and get a little more lead. But right now, that third quarter has been great for three or four games now.”
North Medford’s Jaray Thomas scored eight of his 10 points in the third quarter and fellow senior Garrett Parker added five of his 10 points in the frame to put South Eugene (12-5, 1-2) on its heels.
“Jaray got going to the rim and attacking and, goodness, he can finish with all sorts of moves,” said Plankenhorn.
It didn’t help South Eugene’s cause that leading scorer Cole McAninch drew his third foul of the game two minutes into the third quarter and was tagged with a technical foul seconds later to eventually send him to the bench with 4 minutes, 47 seconds left in the period.
McAninch shared team-high scoring honors with junior point guard Sam Harris at 18 points apiece, but the Axe trailed 48-34 by the time he returned to start the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t come out really well and dug a hole for ourselves,” said South Eugene head coach Dave Hancock, “and we weren’t able to dig ourselves back out.”
Reserve guard Victor Orozco-Bernal played a big role in keep the Axe at bay over the final eight minutes, scoring 11 of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter.
“I thought Vic came off and played great off the bench again after Darrius (Wells) sparked us early,” said Plankenhorn. “We’re just getting a lot from everybody so it’s exciting that we have the depth that we have compared to some other teams.”
On a night when North Medford struggled from beyond the arc, going 3-for-14, Orozco-Bernal knocked down two of those 3-pointers and was a threat on both ends with four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“Tonight it was all because of my teammates,” said the 6-foot-1 junior. “They looked for me and it wouldn’t have been possible without them. Every time they saw me open I got it and then I just had the open shot.”
Wells finished with 12 points to go with four rebounds, while Thomas pulled in five boards to go with three assists and Parker had four rebounds and two assists. Senior Eli Spence added seven points and nine rebounds and junior Jett Carpenter contributed six points and six rebounds.
As for the difference in his team’s play after halftime, Orozco-Bernal said it hasn’t been as much about breaking down their play as much as revitalizing their spirits.
“We just get energy coming out of the locker room and we just go after it,” he said.
Combined with South Medford’s upset win over Roseburg, the Black Tornado was able to gain sole possession of first place in the SWC by scoring a win against one of the leading title contenders.
“All conference wins are pretty huge, especially home ones against teams that are talked about winning conference titles against you,” said Plankenhorn. “It was a big win for us. They had just come off a loss so they were going to really have an extra incentive tonight, so it was big for us to come out and get it.”
North Medford will next play host to crosstown rival South Medford on Wednesday.
SOUTH EUGENE (58): Harris 18, McAninch 18, Paul 8, Clark 6, Berryman 3, Uhlhorn 3, Edwards 2, Boettcher 0, Bryant 0, Nelson 0. Totals: 21-51 10-15 58.
NORTH MEDFORD (67): Orozco-Bernal 16, Wells 12, Thomas 10, Parker 10, Spence 7, Carpenter 6, Karrick 5, Ellis 0, Conrad 0. Totals: 23-66 18-25 67.
South Eugene1411924— 58
North Medford15141919— 67
3-point goals — South Eugene 6-18 (Harris 3, Paul 1, Berryman 1, Uhlhorn 1), North Medford 3-14 (Orozco-Bernal 2, Wells 1). Fouled out — McAninch. Technical foul — McAninch.
JV score — North Medford 53, South Eugene 52.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry