South Medford sophomore post Mayen Akpan drives to the basket Thursday against Southridge. (Photo by Jon Olson)
South Medford sophomore post Mayen Akpan drives to the basket Thursday against Southridge. (Photo by Jon Olson)

South Medford lived up to its No. 1 seed in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 6A girls basketball tournament Thursday at the Chiles Center.

The Panthers forced 21 turnovers and held No. 8 Southridge to 20.8-percent shooting in a 56-24 quarterfinal victory. South Medford (24-3), the runner-up last year, advances to Friday's semifinals to face No. 5 Willamette, its Southwest Conference rival.

“We just played great team basketball today, and we got it done,” Panthers senior forward Kim Ceron-Romero said. “It's a good steppingstone for our next opponent.”

Mayen Akpan, a 6-foot-3 sophomore post, had 19 points and 18 rebounds and Ceron-Romero had 19 points, four rebounds, two assists and four steals for South Medford, which posted its 20th consecutive win. The Panthers led 20-3 early in the second quarter and 33-9 at half.

“It was a good start, for sure,” coach Tom Cole said. “I thought the kids took a big step forward today. We didn't get the best game from all of our kids, but I think collectively they really played off one another's success.”

South Medford is back in the semifinals despite graduating three starters from last season, including all-state guard Donovyn Hunter, now at Oregon State.

“I think a lot of people counted us out this year considering we lost – I mean, Donovyn is doing amazing things in the Pac-12,” Ceron-Romero said. “Just being able to come out here and show everyone we're still relevant … it's just been really cool. It's really good to see all the sophomores step up.”

Akpan continued her breakout season by controlling the paint against the Skyhawks (22-5). Of her 18 rebounds, 12 were on the offensive end.

“She's become much more confident now, and her athleticism is really superior, and I think it showed today,” Cole said. “She's becoming a very dominant force in Oregon girls basketball.”

Akpan entered Thursday averaging 7.0 points and 10.2 rebounds.

“She's really been vital to our success this year,” Ceron-Romero said. “She's a monster on the boards. For her, that's a big, big thing that she brings to us. … It's really taken the weight off of everyone else to have a presence in the post.”

Sophomore guard Sara Mangan and senior guard Audrey Meek each scored eight points for Southridge.

South Medford qualified for the semifinals for the fourth consecutive state tournament, not counting the 2021 culminating week tournament, which the Panthers won. South Medford has not won an official state title since 2012.

No. 5 Willamette 53, No. 4 Jefferson 47: Game story

No. 6 Benson 51, No. 14 Grants Pass 30: Senior post Mahogany Chandler-Roberts had 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Techsters (22-4) routed the Cavemen (18-10).

Benson took a 9-1 lead on a three-pointer by senior Mauriana Hashemian-Orr. The Techsters led 19-6 early in the second quarter and 31-19 at half. They pushed the lead to 45-22 in the fourth quarter.

Hashemian-Orr finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and seven steals, making three three-pointers. Benson had a 41-29 edge in rebounds and forced 25 turnovers, committing 15.

Senior Brooke Anderson, the Southwest Conference player of the year, had 11 points, seven rebounds and two steals for Grants Pass, which was coming off a win over No. 3 McMinnville in the round of 16.

No. 2 Clackamas 61, No. 10 Jesuit 34: Reigning champion Clackamas (23-3) rolled past Jesuit (20-7) behind 6-1 junior Jazzy Davidson, who had 27 points, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals.

The Cavaliers used an 8-0 run to open a 14-6 lead in the first quarter, getting three-pointers from Reyce Mogel and Sara Barhoum. They led 31-15 at half and extended their edge to 22 points in the third quarter.

Barhoum finished with 13 points, making three three-pointers. Avery Peterson had seven points, five assists and two blocks and Mogel added eight points and six rebounds.

Clackamas, which shot 43.6 percent, held Jesuit to 21.4 percent from the field. Audrey Bayless led the Crusaders with 10 points and Nevada-bound senior post Kendra Hicks added four points and 16 rebounds.

It marked the second season in a row that Clackamas eliminated Jesuit. The Cavaliers beat the Crusaders 39-34 in the semifinals last year.