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Skyhawks shut down South Medford in the Class 6A quarterfinals, set up all-Metro semifinal

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge junior McKelle Meek and the Skyhawks shut down South Medford in the Class 6A quarterfinals.

This is how Southridge's defense can completely dictate a game.

In the Class 6A quarterfinals against South Medford, Southridge's only field goal came with 38 seconds left in the second quarter, on a sweet feed from Cameron Brink to Kilyn Dawkins. For most state contenders the lack of offensive production could be problematic.

But for a team that's built its dynasty off a defensive foundation, the shortage was met with a shrug. Southridge countered with its smothering 2-3 zone, jumping out to a 20-5 first quarter and comfortably sailed past South Medford 48-29 at the Chiles Center.

"It's hard to play when you're shut down early," Southridge sophomore guard Maya Hoff said. "We know that. That's what we try to do, bring the defense early and set the tone. The top (of the zone) hustled a lot and got out on the shooters and if the top did attack, we had (Brink) and (Dawkins) in the middle to stop penetration."

The two-time defending 6A champs will take on Beaverton in the 6A semis on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. back at the Chiles Center. And while Thursday's contest was essentially over by the first quarter buzzer, the road ahead figures to be much tougher no matter who Southridge faces. The Skyhawks have morphed into public enemy number one around the state, not for anything nasty or degrading but simply the fact Southridge has been unbeatable the past two years or so. The champs are sure to get their foes' best effort and overall fight. Whether it's Beaverton trying to get off the Skyhawk money off its back, or Tigard or Benson hoping to cast a stone at Goliath in the title bout, Southridge is in for two all-out skirmishes. Not that the Skyhawks aren't shying away from the confrontations.

"We're just taking it one game at a time, we haven't accomplished anything yet," Hoff said. "We just have to go 2-0 (the rest of the tournament). We look forward to the challenge. It's going to be hard because there's a lot of good competition this year. We have the target on our backs, but that just makes us play harder. We like the competition, it's part of the game."

The first quarter showing against South Medford was typical Southridge. All five starters scored with Brink leading the troupe with 10 points and a sick no-look jump pass to a cutting Kaylen Blair for two. Blair and Kyla Vinson banged threes from deep. And the Skyhawks squeezed South Medford into a rather sour start that included an airball, a miss off the side of the glass and two takeaways. Two minutes into the game, Southridge was in complete command, ahead 9-0 in the first quarter. Southridge's 2-3 zone, notorious for taking teams completely out of sync for long stretches, was it again against a Panther team that panicked against the Skyhawk pressure early. Blair and junior point guard McKelle Meek set the tone atop the zone, stalking South Medford's backcourt, moving their feet to cut off dribble penetration and smothering potential entry passes to the post and the wing. Dawkins and Hoff flanked the wings, deploying their elongated wingspans and smooth athleticism to harass passing lanes and deflect any ball that came their way. And of course, Brink brought it all together in the middle, blocking shots with one or two hands, altering others, changing looks by her mere presence and 6-foot-5 active frame.

"Ball pressure and communication are the keys for us," Dawkins said. "If we don't have the ball pressure then (the opponent) can get it out to their shooters. If we don't have the communication, we don't know where everybody is."

And while Southridge's offense stalled somewhat in the second quarter, the Skyhawks went 6-for-6 at the free throw line before the Brink-to-Dawkins find that gave the champs a 28-11 halftime lead. Dawkins scored eight of her 10 points in the second half, six of which came off lob passes from Meek both from out of bounds plays and in transition. Dawkins also had six boards, two steals and shot 4-for-5 from the field. Brink was customarily great, scoring 20 points, grabbing 15 boards, blocking three shots and dishing out two dimes. The junior also went 8-for-12 at the free throw line. Vinson and Blair both had five points apiece.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge junior Kaylen Blair and the Skyhawk basketball team are going back to the Class 6A semis on Friday.

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