South Medford Wins by 4
Bill Long 3/10/07
A 58-54 Victory over Lake Oswego
For the second time in three months, the South Medford Panthers beat the Lake Oswego Lakers in Oregon boys 6A basketball. This time, however, it was for the state championship. The victory by the Panthers keeps the "democratic" tradition in Oregon alive--i.e., no team has won back to back titles in the highest division in Oregon basketball in 30 years. I predicted a SM win by 3 points; they ended up winning by 4. My pre-game analysis was that if Love got more than 30 points then LO would win. He had his usual dominant performance (37 points; 14 rebounds), but SM still won. The difference was, as I pointed out in this essay, SM has a full complement of five guys who can play well on a given night. Last night in the semifinal victory over Jesuit it was Jon Grimes who rose to the occasion with 15 points. Tonight it was Van Dellenback-Ouellette who canned 12. These points, of course, supplemented outstanding performances from Michael Harthun (24 points) and Kyle Singler (18 points and numerous good decisions on the court).
Though Love was fully as dominant as in any game I have seen him play (with the exception of the victory over Westview in the quarterfinals), he didn't have a backup cast to support him very well tonight. Landon Ainge put in nine points but Ernie Spada was only able to convert on two shots (six points), and the rest of the crew really didn't contribute much to the flow of the game or the team's performance. This was the key to the game, in my judgment. LO just didn't have enough other players to match SM's game. And, to give SM credit, their three point shooting was nothing less than amazing. I think they were 7-7 from 3 Pt range, with Michael Harthun sinking five of them.
Player of the Year
My "two cents" on this question is that the player of the year should go to Kevin Love again. Despite the fact that SM pulled out a squeaker in the finals, he deserves the honor. Without Love the LO team might not have won more than a few games this year, while without Kyle Singler the SM Panthers still would have been a very formidable team. That is how much Love made a difference to his team. And, I have never seen a player as dominant at any position in Oregon basketball as Love was at post during this year. With his 37 points tonight, he finished with 2628 career points, eclipsing Salim Stoudamire's 4A (highest category before this season) record by 400 points and Bob Hunt's state mark in any category by more than 40 points. He did this even though he missed more than a dozen games his sophomore year while recovering from knee surgery.
So we close a season which will long be remembered in Oregon boys 6A basketball. Games will be played, stars will emerge, teams will win championships and young men will be named "player of the year." But Oregon experienced something of a special nature with boys basketball in the last few years, and especially in 2006-07. We wish Kyle Singler and Kevin Love the best as they emerge into the national spotlight next year at Duke and UCLA; and we also wish the other competitors the best as they continue to play, study or work. They have made us proud, and they showed us a really good time...