South hopes for best with injured star

Center Picknell is out indefinitely, but the Panther girls are selected to win the SOH

Mail Tribune

January 04, 2011

Its chess game was still young when the South Medford girls basketball team lost its queen.

And when you’re queen is 6-foot-5?

“It changes who we are drastically,” South head coach Tom Cole said. “Without Tess (Picknell), we go from a team with a lot of size to a team with no size.”

At least for now, the Panthers (5-5) are without the services of Picknell, the team’s starting center who is out with a foot injury until further notice.

The South squad that Southern Oregon Hybrid coaches unanimously voted as the preseason favorite — and the team that Cole had envisioned at season’s start — is facing somewhat of an identity crisis.

To add to the Panthers’ height disadvantage, 6-foot-3 junior post Leilani Morris is not playing this year.

So now, Cole said, it’s going to take every ounce of talent and strategy that the Panthers can muster to claim the conference title.

Meanwhile, Crater (6-2) also looks poised to challenge for the league crown despite being a Class 5A team last season and losing several stars. The Comets are ranked second in latest OSAA rankings.

South opens its SOH season by hosting Roseburg at 7 tonight.

Picknell, a junior who has generated interest from Division I schools, suffered the right foot injury in South’s victory over Jefferson at the Laker/Nike Interstate Shootout on Wednesday. She averages 11.6 points, 11 rebounds and 5.5 blocked shots per game.

Picknell has missed one game and the practices following her injury so far. The severity of the high foot sprain is being evaluated by a doctor, Cole said.

“At this point, we prepare for the worst and hope for best,” he said.

The young Panthers will rely heavily on their talented backcourt of sophomores Kylie Towry and Yaremi Mejia. Towry was a Southwest Conference first-team selection after averaging 14 points as a freshman, while Mejia made the honorable mention list and currently leads the team in scoring.

Mejia averages 13.9 points and Towry 13.6 points per game.

Hanna Curtius, another honorable mention from a season ago, has rotated between both forward positions for South, which finished 18-9 last year.

Small, quick guard Lupita Vargas and 5-foot-9 guard/forward Luisa Tago, who faced several injuries last year, give South some extra scoring punch.

The 6-0 Grace Brennan is the Panthers’ tallest player without Picknell. Freshman Ashley Bolston will also play an expanded role.

As for all the first-place votes from coaches that South received?

“I think it is a reflection of what we would look like with all the pieces in place,” Cole said. “Our reality as of Jan. 3 is we don’t have all the pieces in place. We are having to really do some figuring out who we are in lieu of what we lost or may have lost.”

The new SOH added Crater and subtracted Sheldon and South Eugene. The Comets lost four all-star caliber players from the 2010 team that nearly defeated Jefferson in the 5A state semifinals but return a mix that currently owns the best record among conference squads.

“We’ve worked pretty hard to get ready for the jump for whenever they were going to impose it on us,” Crater head coach J.T. Thomas said. “We have anticipated it for at least four years and we’ve worked hard to be ready to compete in this league and give some people some good games.”

Senior guard Katie Powell, the team’s leading scorer, and junior post Kelly Ferris both have experience as starters. Powell scored 26 points against Jefferson at McArthur Court in Eugene last year.

Rounding out Crater’s starting five are Beth McNichols, Kasidy Cobb and Brook Blaisdell.

As a 5A school last year, the Comets beat North Medford, Grants Pass and Roseburg in nonconference games.

“They are under the radar,” Cole said. “Those kids are going to get after you.”

At North Medford, the Black Tornado has a new coach in Kailey Bostwick and young team with one senior, four juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen. Despite that, North has led entering the fourth quarter of every game its played in so far — the squad has managed to protect their advantage more than half of the time with a record of 6-5. North has four losses by four points or fewer.

“We have had no problem scoring, that is for sure,” Bostwick said. “I don’t think North has scored this many points in a long time. I don’t like using young as an excuse, but we are just getting the girls to have the mind-set of winning and not trying not to lose. I don’t want them to play scared.”

Bostwick is a 2005 North Medford graduate and former Black Tornado and college standout. She replaces Kevin Dixon, who resigned April 6 after two seasons as head coach and two as an assistant.

Senior post Alyssa Maurer and sophomore center McKensey Peters are two of the Black Tornado’s leaders. Maurer and another starting returner, Maryssa Becker, were named to the SWC honorable mention list last winter.

Freshman Jocilynn Ellis and junior Becca Allen play both the wing and point guard positions for North.

Karissa Dixon, now a freshman guard at Oregon Tech, led the team in scoring last year. Danielle Smith, a senior transfer from Phoenix, tore an anterior cruciate ligament during the team’s close loss to Bend on Dec. 12. The 5-foot-5 wing will miss the season, Bostwick said.

North travels to play Eagle Point in a nonconference game tonight and is at Roseburg on Friday.

GRANTS PASS — Courtney Smith and Annie Edgar are two of Grants Pass’ top talents, and Maricela Aguilera is a point guard with three years of varsity experience. The Cavers (3-6) are hoping a tough style of play — and last year’s growing pains — pay off with second-year head coach Scott Wakefield at the helm.

ROSEBURG — Sophomore point guard Shelby Snook was named second-team all-SWC as a freshman. She averaged 13 points and five rebounds last year. Alicia Alspaugh is an outside threat.

Roseburg (3-5) will be without junior post Hayley Baumgartner, a returning starter who tore an ACL in the fall.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or e-mail

south medford

COACH: Tom Cole (fourth year)

LAST YEAR: 18-9, 10-5 SWC



Player Ht. Pos. Yr.

Kylie Towry 5-9 G So.

Tess Picknell 6-5 C Jr.

Hanna Curtius 5-9 G/F Sr.

Yaremi Mejia 5-7 G So.


Luisa Tago 5-9 G/F So.

Grace Brennan 6-0 F/P Sr.

Lupita Vargas 5-0 G Jr.

Ashley Bolston 5-9 G Fr.


COACH: JT Thomas (fifth year)

LAST YEAR: 23-8, 9-3 Southern Sky



Player Ht. Pos. Yr.

Katie Powell 5-8 G Sr.

Kelly Ferris 6-2 P Jr.


Beth McNichols 5-6 PG Jr.

Cobb 5-5 G Jr.

Brook Blaisdell 5-11 F Sr.

grants pass

COACH: Scott Wakefield (second year)

LAST YEAR: 8-15, 4-11 SWC



Player Ht. Pos. Yr.

Maricela Aguilera 5-5 PG Sr.

Courtney Smith 5-9 G Sr.

Annie Edgar 5-10 C Jr.

Hannah Johnson 6-2 G-F Jr.


Kyndra Syfert 5-5 G Jr.

Jordan Luker 5-9 G-P Jr.

Jordan Daniels 5-7 G Jr.


COACH: Kailey Bostwick (first year)

LAST YEAR: 12-13, 6-9 SWC



Player Ht. Pos. Yr.

Alyssa Maurer 5-9 P Sr.

McKensey Peters 5-10 P So.

Maryssa Becker 6-1 P So.


Becca Allen 5-7 PG Jr.

Jocilynn Ellis 5-6 PG Fr.

Mikayla Murphy 5-9 W Jr.


COACH: Jeff Thomas (fifth year)

LAST YEAR: 3-21, 2-13 SWC



Player Ht. Pos. Yr.

Shelby Snook 5-9 G So.

Alicia Alspaugh 5-8 G Jr.


Kelli Torres 5-6 G Sr.

Tatum Anderson 5-8 P Sr.

Rachel Picknell 5-9 P Jr.

Mahala Howard 5-9 P Sr.

Maile Chong 5-7 G So.