football

Thomas Gardners Jefferson Tossed

If the rest of the Oregon State Championships Tournament is anything like the
opening game, fans are going to be treated to something special.
In a game that was essentially close throughout, South Medford (OR) HS inched
by Portland (OR) Jefferson, 53-52, on a desperation three-point shot by senior
guard Jeremy Frantz with no time remaining, setting off a wild celebration by
South Medford players and fans.
There were indications that the game would be decided at the buzzer from the
very beginning. South Medford's patient offense frustrated the Jefferson
Democrats, and the Panthers rushed out to an early 23-16 lead. But led by
their star senior shooting guard Thomas Gardner (right), Jefferson fought back,
finishing the half on a 10-3 run to tie the game at 26 going into the half.
In the third quarter, it seemed as Jefferson may have taken control, although
their lead was slim. When Gardner sank a three with 3:26 left in the period,
the Demos took a 35-29 lead. But South Medford continued to hang around, and
early in the fourth quarter, they made their move. After an Isaiah Allen
putback put Jefferson up 41-35 early in the period, the Panthers ran off eleven
straight points, taking over the lead on a drive by junior guard Ryan Fiegi at
the 4:36 mark and going up by five, 46-41, on a Fiegi putback with 3:30 left.
But Jefferson would fight back with their own 5-0 mini-run. Senior guard
Demarcus Carney scored on an acrobatic drive. Junior guard Anthony Atherton
scored on the break off a pass from Gardner. And Gardner hit the front end of
two free throws with 2:17 remaining to tie the game up at 46.
It was now South Medford's turn. Patiently passing the ball around, Boomer
Marshall cut backdoor underneath the hoop to earn a traditional three-point
play at the 1:24 mark. Jefferson responded with a pullup jumper from freshman
guard Lathen Wallace to bring the Demos within one, 49-48. And when South
Medford missed two free throws with 1:06 on the clock, it appeared that
Jefferson would have a final crack at the win.
Unfortunately for the Demos, they needed to take care of the little things
first. The rebound off the Panthers' second free throw miss bounced off
Jefferson hands out of bounds. On the very next in-bounds play with 55.7
seconds left, Thomas Gardner was called for his fifth foul while guarding
Frantz.
The Democrats appeared dead. Gone was their leader, the player who took every
big shot for them this season. On the other hand, this was also an opportunity
for Jefferson's younger talents to step up. Enter sophomore guard Mac Hopson.
After Frantz converted on one of two free throws, Hopson was fouled on a drive
with 39.9 seconds on the clock, and hit the two following pressure free throws.
Then, with South Medford hoping to hold the ball for the last shot, freshman
guard Lathan Wallace forced a Panthers turnover with 21 seconds remaining.
With Jefferson taking possession, Hopson drove the lane and converted on a
layup over two defenders to give Jefferson a 52-50 lead.
But there were 4.2 seconds left on the clock, and if there's one thing we've
learned about March Madness at any level, any time left on the clock can be
enough. Coming out of the timeout, South Medford moved the ball the length of
the floor and found Frantz as he launched a fallaway shot at the buzzer from 30
feet which was just barely tipped by a Jefferson defender.
It banked in. South Medford 53, Jefferson 52.
Ryan Fiegi and Boomer Marshall led the way for South Medford with 12 points
each, while Frantz finished with eight. Fiegi grabbed a team-high eight
rebounds as the Panthers outrebounded Jefferson, 31-26. Gardner led Jefferson
with 17 points and six rebounds, but only shot 5-for-16 from the field, 2-for-8
from behind the three-point stripe, and 5-for-9 from the free throw line.
For Jefferson, it was the second year in a row they lost in the first round to
an opponent from the SOC (South Oregon Conference). Last year, the Democrats
bowed out to Grants Pass, 82-68.
South Medford moves on to the second round to face Hillsboro (OR), while
Jefferson will attempt to bounce back in the consolation round against
Springfield (OR).
Jed Tai is a Senior Writer for Hoopville.com
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