South Medford’s girls basketball team knew it was going to take everything it had in order to deny Grant in a tight second-round matchup, and that’s exactly what the Panthers provided Saturday night.
Captains Ula Chamberlin and Bella Pedrojetti stepped to the forefront when it mattered most with clutch efforts and the eighth-seeded Panthers clawed their way past No. 9 seed Grant, 61-58, to secure a berth in next week’s Class 6A girls basketball state tournament.
South Medford (23-4) held the lead at the end of every quarter, but it wasn’t by much in a hard-fought victory over the Generals (17-9) that reached deafening levels down the stretch as the teams traded points.
“If there was ever a time to come together and really play like it was meaningful and your season is on the line, it was tonight, and they did it,” said Panthers head coach Tom Cole, who improved his record to 18-0 in playoff games at home.
“Grant was really good and both teams just battled,” he added. “I’m super proud of these kids. Everybody who came off the bench tonight battled as hard as they can, and to see the two captains really step up and seal it at the line was huge.”
South Medford will next face No. 1-seeded Southridge (23-3) at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the state quarterfinals at the Chiles Center in Portland. The two-time defending champion Skyhawks beat West Salem, 70-39, on Saturday.
Chamberlin scored 10 of her team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter in a seesaw battle with her future Weber State teammate Daryn Hickok, who netted a game-high 29 points.
South Medford’s lead was 53-52 with 1 minute, 19 seconds left when Chamberlin went to the foul line facing a one-and-one opportunity. The Panthers’ all-time leading scorer calmly drained both.
After Hickok answered with a driving effort, Chamberlin again repeated her free-throw line situation and dropped in both for a 57-54 lead with 57.4 seconds to play. Grant’s 6-2 sophomore Schuyler Berry managed only one free throw on the other end this time, opening the door for South Medford to take advantage and Pedrojetti did just that with 20.6 seconds to go by making both ends of her one-and-one opportunity.
Undaunted, Hickok gained a full head of steam and drove in for a three-point play to put the pressure back on the Panthers at 59-58, but Pedrojetti again remained cool under pressure and it was her final two free throws that gave South Medford the cushion it would need with 8.3 seconds to play.
Grant rushed the ball up the court but Amaya Aldridge’s 3-point shot caught only the front rim, and soon the Panther celebration was in full squeal.
“This feels amazing,” said Chamberlin, who missed out on the state tourney last year for the only time in her career. “I feel like we definitely deserve this and we’ve been working hard for this. I think after taking a loss last year in the second round that everyone wanted it so much more this year.”
That spirit was undeniable as South Medford shook off every shot the Generals threw its way Saturday night.
“I think all of our mindsets tonight were that we’re going to state, we don’t care what happens,” said Chamberlin. “Nothing else is changing, we’re going to state.”
Sophomore Toni Coleman helped set the stage early with eight of her 13 points in an active first quarter, while Pedrojetti heated up after a scoreless first half to finish with nine points. Coleman also had three steals, and Pedrojetti added three assists.
Of her big moment at the end of the game, the 5-10 Pedrojetti said she just tried to stay calm so she could help her team out.
“During the game I wasn’t in rhythm and I wasn’t hitting shots,” she said, “but at least I made it when it counted. I’m proud of that and I’m proud of my team and I’m so happy that all of us came together in the end to pull one out. I’m so excited for the next step.”
After falling behind 19-12 through one quarter, Grant battled back in the second quarter and used a 4-0 run in the final 30 seconds to cut its deficit to only 28-25 at halftime. The second half, however, started with a 3-pointer by Chamberlin off an assist by freshman Tanesha Coley and included a pull-up jumper and corner 3-pointer by Pedrojetti to regain momentum.
“South Medford played really hard,” said Grant head coach Michael Bontemps. “We tried to match their intensity but we came up a little short on a couple plays and they prevailed.”
“They started the second half tough hitting a couple 3s and that put us back one step,” he added, “because I thought we had some momentum going into halftime.”
Sophomore Kaili Chamberlin added six points and seven rebounds, while her interior trio of teammates, Shakia Teague-Perry, Sierra Logue and Coley, joined in the tough task of containing Berry and did yeoman’s work in the paint.
Logue finished with seven points, Coley had five rebounds, two assists and two blocks and Teague-Perry contributed four points, three rebounds, three steals and three assists.
“They definitely had a big matchup, but they took it on,” said Ula Chamberlin. “They didn’t care, they wanted it just as much as everyone else did and they were ready to battle all night. Toni’s defense definitely set the tone tonight, but those girls worked hard inside.”
GRANT (58): Delancy 1, Leonard 2, Roach 4, Hickok 29, Aldridge 6, Watson 0, Berry 16. Totals: 19 20-27 58.
SOUTH MEDFORD (61): K. Chamberlin 6, Coleman 13, U. Chamberlin 20, Schmerbach 0, Pedrojetti 9, Logue 7, Coley 2, Teague-Perry 4. Totals: 20 18-23 61.
South Medford1991518— 61
3-point goals — South Medford 3 (U. Chamberlin 2, Pedrojetti 1). Fouled out — Logue, Teague-Perry, Leonard.