The hardest part of struggling through a season in any team sport is making sure the athletes stay engaged, imploring them not to quit.
The Roseburg High girls basketball team showed no quit Friday night.
Despite hanging tough with the No. 2-ranked Class 6A team in the state, the Indians simply couldn’t keep up with South Medford’s defensive pressure as the Panthers ran away for an 82-33 Southwest Conference victory at Robertson Memorial Gymnasium.
The Indians hung tough with the Panthers for the game’s first five minutes, but South Medford cranked up the intensity and put the game well out of reach.
“I was really proud of these girls tonight,” Roseburg coach Dane Tornell said. “They just didn’t quit. (South Medford) Coach (Tom) Cole approached me after the game and said, ‘Totally impressed. It felt like we physically got beat up tonight. Tell your girls to keep fighting.’”
Roseburg had plenty of fight, especially in the early going. After a quick South Medford 3-pointer to open the game, Katie Knudson scored off an offensive rebound and Kalina Anderson’s spin move to a left-handed layup knotted the contest at 4-4.
After a Kaili Chamberlin 3-pointer pushed South to a 9-6 lead, Ericka Allen drove the lane for Roseburg and scored a layup to make it 9-8 with 3:30 to play in the quarter.
That’s when the Panthers stepped on the gas.
South Medford (20-3, 8-0 SWC) went to full-court pressure defense and went on a 29-3 run, scoring 22 points on fast break layups.
“They’re just so fast,” Tornell said. “We can be running at full speed and they still pull away from us.”
South Medford junior guard Emma Schmerbach scored 16 of her 18 points in the first half, all in transition. Senior Bella Pedrojetti took over in the second half for the Panthers, scoring 15 of her game-high 20 points in the span of 10 minutes.
But as South Medford was running away, the Tribe didn’t buckle.
Roseburg finished the third quarter strong as Jazmyn Murphy converted a three-point play after scoring in the lane, and Kaylee White hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer.
In the fourth quarter, the Indians got transition layups from Murphy and Anderson, and Emma Vredenburg knocked down a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch.
Murphy finished with eight points, Vredenburg with seven, and Knudson and Anderson both had six for Roseburg.
“I was proud of the girls to keep fighting the way they did,” Tornell said. “Three weeks ago, they were pretty much done. When you coach girls, you’re coaching two games: Xs and Os, and you’re coaching hearts. My goal is coaching these girls to want to compete.
“Tom (Cole) started out the same way when he took over at South Medford. He was 2-42 his first two seasons, and five years later they were the No. 4 team in the nation.
“We just have to go to work again tomorrow.”
Roseburg fell to 2-20 on the season and 0-8 in SWC play, and will wrap up the regular season next week with a home game against Grants Pass Tuesday and visiting North Medford Friday.
SOUTH MEDFORD (82) — Bella Pedrojetti 20, E. Schmerbach 18, Chamberlin 15, Teague-Perry 8, Coleman 8, Dahlin 5, Stone 4, Dillard 4, Coley, Fealey, T. Schmerbach. Totals 38 4-5 82.
ROSEBURG (33) — Jazmyn Murphy 8, Vredenburg 7, Knudson 6, Anderson 6, White 3, Allen 2, Miller 1, Carpenter, Russell. Totals 12 6-14 33.
South Medford 23 23 21 15 — 82
Roseburg 11 4 7 11 — 33
3-Point Goals — S.M. 4 (Pedrojetti 2, Chamberlin 1, Dahlin 1), Ros. 3 (Vredenburg 2, White 1). Total Fouls — S.M. 11, Ros. 8.