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SOC stars battle it out to the finish

Roseburg's Jori Grady wins MVP honors by a narrow margin over Ashland's Marla Morin and North Medford's Kerstin Mellbye

The race for Southern Oregon Conference player-of-the-year honors was much tighter than the sprint for the SOC team championship this winter.

But ultimately, Roseburg came out on top in both instances.

After rolling to a 14-0 league record and their first SOC crown since 1994, the Indians had senior wing Jori Grady named the conference's most valuable player in a vote of SOC coaches.

Grady finished with 100 points in the voting, while Ashland senior post Marla Morin and North Medford senior post Kerstin Mellbye were right behind her with 99 and 98 points, respectively.

Rounding out the first-team all-SOC selections were: Crater junior post Dani Montgomery, South Medford senior post Beth Mueller and Ashland sophomore guard Hilary Huyett.

The 5-foot-11 Grady's versatility and dependability in the clutch were what separated her from the field, in Roseburg head coach Bob Feasel's estimation.

The nice thing about it was I think the other coaches recognized the fact that she's a complete player, said Feasel, who was named conference coach of the year in his second season with the Indians. She not only gave us scoring but was able to do so many other things to help us win.

And there were always times that she'd hit big shots.

Grady is averaging 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game as Roseburg (22-2), ranked an all-time best second in the most recent Class 4A coaches poll, prepares for the state tournament March 4-8 at the University of Portland's Chiles Center.

As for his own honor, Feasel said much of the credit should go to assistant coaches Chad Smith, Brian Young and Brian Miller.

I'm a firm believer that you're only as good as the people you work with, said Feasel, whose Indians hadn't earned a part of the SOC title since 1994 ' when they were co-champs with South Medford ' and hadn't been outright champions since 1987.

Morin, 6-1, narrowly missed a rare double in SOC athletics, as she was the player of the year for the conference volleyball season in the fall.

With the Grizzlies (17-8) getting set for tonight's second-round state-playoff game against McNary at 7 in Ashland, Morin is averaging 18 points ' best in the league ' and 9.9 rebounds per game.

Ashland tied for second at 10-4 in the SOC but had to settle for the third seed by virtue of its two losses to North Medford.

Marla played big in all the big games, said Steve Humann, the Grizzlies' first-year head coach. And I mean big. ... And also she was a real leader in the other games.

Mellbye, 6-2, was perhaps the conference's most improved player this winter, producing 17.7, 8.7 rebounds and about two steals per outing for the Black Tornado (15-9).

She leads North, the SOC's second seed, into a third-round state-playoff game Saturday in the North gym against tonight's West Linn-Southridge winner.

She was truly our MVP, first-year Tornado head coach Tim Karrick. To take a team from 2-12 to 10-4 and second in the league, she deserved a shot at league MVP, and she got that.

Honestly, I think all three of them (Grady, Morin and Mellbye) deserved it.

Montgomery, 5-11, has helped carry Crater (15-11) into tonight's second-round state-playoff game at Lake Oswego starting at 7:30.

A transfer from Bend, she accumulates 11.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.3 rebounds per game. Her 3-point percentage (47), total offensive rebounds (131) and overall rebounds (265) are the best for a junior in Comets history.

She's one of those kids that does a lot of things well, said Scott Dippel, Crater's first-year head coach. She can play every position on the floor. .. And Dani brings an attitude that I really like.

Mueller, 6-3, helped haul South Medford to the cusp of the state playoffs, only to have her Panthers finish 10-14 after a 46-43 loss to the Comets in a fourth-place tiebreaking game last Saturday.

She ends her prep career as South's all-time leader in blocked shots and second in rebounds.

Huyett, 5-9, returned to Ashland after a year away and flourished as the outside complement to Morin's inside dominance.

She is averaging 14.1 points, 4.4 assists and 3.1 steals per outing.

She stretches the defense where they cannot double team or triple team Marla because Hilary shoots the big rainbows from outside, Humann said.

A full listing of the SOC all-stars follows.

SOC All-Stars

Coaches selected 15 players, with No. — getting 15 points, No. 2 14 points, etc. Coaches did not vote for own players

FIRST TEAM

PlayerSchoolYr. Pos.Ht.Pts.

Jori GradyRoseSrW5-11100

Marla MorinAshSrP6-1 99

Kerstin MellbyeNMSrP6-2 98

Dani MontgomeryCraJrP5-11 76

Beth MuellerSMSrP6-3 60

Hilary HuyettAshSoG5-9 59

SECOND TEAM

Katie StephensRoseJrG5-6 55

Whitney BlackCraJrG5-6 47

Jenni RitterKUSoW5-8 41

Micaela WilliamsRoseSrW5-7 38

Alisa LeeEPSrP5-10 35

THIRD TEAM

Ashley CurtisEPJrP6-0 34

Katie FullerRoseJrP6-2 33

Katie RobertsonCraJrW5-10 32

Natasha WrightSMSrG5-6 30

Kailey BostwickNMSoG5-6 27

Honorable Mention '

Erin Glovinsky, Jr, Grants Pass; Katie Singler, So, South Medford; Kristen Bitter, Sr, Roseburg; Michelle Westermann, So, North Medford; Alysse Carlson, So, Ashland; Erin Kinney, Sr, Crater; Anna Lilly, Jr, North Medford; Kelli Briggs, Jr, Grants Pass; Salina Sychla, So, Eagle Point; Julia Sobolik, Sr, Ashland.

North Medford?s Kerstin Mellbye, left, and Ashland?s Marla Morin, right, barely missed out on SOC player-of-the-year honors. Roseburg?s Jori Grady finished one point higher than Morin and two points above Mellbye in voting by SOC coaches. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli