It’s an experiment that has true benefit and merit, but also one with a big hill to climb before permanent implementation throughout...
EAGLE POINT — With the game on the line, Michaela Dunn was so open she had time to think about it.
"I just really needed it to go in because I'd been missing tonight," she said. "I was really scared it was going to miss."
Turns out Dunn and the resilient Ashland Grizzlies had nothing to worry about.
Dunn rattled in the go-ahead 3-pointer with 40 seconds to go and Georgia Williams added two free throws with 16 seconds left as Ashland scored the last seven points to slip past Southern Oregon Hybrid rival Eagle Point, 44-40, Tuesday at Eagle Point High School.
The win snapped Ashland's five-game losing streak and gave the Grizzlies (7-11) the first of three head-to-head showdowns between the only two SOH 5A schools. The rematch is Feb. 8 in Ashland. The Grizzlies can claim an automatic berth to the play-in round of the 5A state playoffs by winning one of their remaining two games against the Eagles (14-7), who have lost their last four games.
Dunn's first 3-pointer of the second half rimmed in and out then back in again off the backboard to give the Grizzlies the lead for good, 42-40. Following a timeout, Eagle Point wound up with an open 3 of its own at the other end, but Vanessa Pena's corner trey was off and the ball went out of bounds off the boards-crashing Eagles with 26 seconds on the clock. Forced to foul, Eagle Point put Williams on the line for a pressure-packed one-and-one. The sophomore guard swished the first, then the second to secure the biggest win of the season for the Grizzlies.
"It was a really stressful situation, but I was able to calm down and just think about what I was doing," said Williams, who led Ashland with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists. "I'm glad because it really counted."
Eagle Point took a 40-37 lead on Sydney May's running floater off the glass with 1:32 to go but was outscored 7-0 the rest of the way.
Sophomore post Frankie Brookins began Ashland's rally with a nice up-and-under basket at the other end to draw the Grizzlies within one. Eagle Point missed and pulled down an offensive rebound on its next possession, but a pass out to Pena resulted in a costly backcourt violation with 1:07 on the clock.
That set the stage for Dunn, who was unguarded when she took a kickout pass from Sadie Kasiah.
"We were looking to run our (offense) the effective way and get whatever open shot that was open," Ashland head coach Emily Hesse said of the key possession. "And that's what happened. And it happened to be a 3-pointer and we hit the 3-pointer."
Brookins helped seal the win in the closing seconds by rejecting Adriene Wood in the lane, and after the final seconds ticked off the clock the Grizzlies celebrated the comeback with hugs and high fives.
"We were just really happy that we were able to get that game," Williams said. "Our speed never dropped, we never dropped our attitudes or anything. We just kept up the whole time and walked away with the win. A lot of people just doubted us and we came in and showed everyone what we had."
"It's something that I think our team needed," Hesse said. "We were really struggling this season and having this big win, I feel like it's just going to keep us going strong and I talked about that with the girls — 'This is a win that's going to carry us, it's going to push us into the next game, the next game and the next game, and we just have to be ready for that.' It was evident tonight that we can win in close situations. They can see what I'm writing up on the board and they can go out and implement it."
Wood scored 24 points, including 14 at the free throw line, to lead the Eagles. Sydney May added eight and Kinsey Bradshaw six.
The game was close throughout, with Ashland taking the largest lead by either team, 16-11, midway through the second quarter. The Eagles reclaimed the lead early in the third, but were down four, 33-29, after Hannah Teixeira made two free throws with 6:04 to go in the fourth.
Wood drained a 3-pointer on EP's next possession, then sank two free throws — she hit 14 of 22 freebies overall — with 4:50 left to give the Eagles a lead they would not relinquish until Dunn's 3.
Kasiah added six assists and Brookins seven boards for Ashland, which survived a 10-for-19 shooting night from the free throw line.
"It was hard to come in here, especially with their crowd and everyone just going crazy," Williams said. "But we were able to calm down and keep our composure."
ASHLAND (44) — Williams 16, Winner 5, Kuykendall 0, Teixeira 2, Dunn 6, Kasiah 10, Thornton 2, Brookins 3. Totals: 15 10-19 44.
EAGLE POINT (40) — Pena 2, Cooper 0, May 8, Wood 24, Bradshaw 6, Nielsen 0, Cowden, Hoefft 0, Summers 0. Totals: 10 14-22 40.
Ashland 7 12 7 18 — 44
Eagle Point 9 9 10 12 — 40
3-point goals — Ashland 4 (Dunn 2, Kasiah 2), Eagle Point 2 (Wood 2).
JV result — Eagle Point won.