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Ashland dominates, moves on

Defense leads the way for the Grizzlies in the Class 4A state playoff victory over McNary

ASHLAND ' A defensive focus was good enough to carry the McNary girls basketball team to third place and a 13-5 record in the Valley League this season.

But it was far from good enough to hang with Ashland in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs Thursday night.

The Grizzlies (18-7) sent three seniors out winners in the final home game of their prep careers with a 52-31 pasting of the Celtics (16-9).

Ashland, the Southern Oregon Conference's third seed, moves on to play at Tualatin at 7 p.m. Saturday with a berth in the state tournament on the line.

We didn't really know what to expect (from McNary), so we were on our toes, said Grizzlies senior post Marla Morin, who combined 18 points with 11 rebounds, both game-highs, in the last of her 65 ' by her own count, combining volleyball and basketball ' playing appearances at the Mountain Avenue Gym.

We really wanted this game, and when you really want something you always try a little bit harder on defense, I think. Offense comes from your defense.

Indeed, Ashland ensured its advancement by giving McNary a dose of its own medicine ' suffocating defense ' and finding more than enough offense to get by.

The Grizzlies jumped to an 8-2 lead in the first 2 minutes, 13 seconds and never trailed.

The Celtics were in a 24-10 hole at the half and couldn't cut the margin to single digits at any point in the final two quarters.

When you're in the playoffs, you've gotta bring your best game, said McNary head coach Marlo Cleary, whose squad beat Reynolds, 44-37, at home in Keizer in Tuesday's first round. We didn't have our best game tonight.

The Celtics came in allowing just 30-32 points per contest while scoring only 38, Cleary said.

Their switching, sticky defense did cause Ashland, which boasts ample firepower, some problems, particularly in the second quarter.

But the Grizzlies retained their grip on the game at all times by turning in one of their better defensive efforts of the year.

Ashland swiped 11 steals, led by sophomore point guard Alysse Carlson's four, and held McNary to 26.3 percent (10-for-38) shooting from the field. The Celtics had just 17 points through three quarters and committed 17 turnovers in all.

We had ball pressure and really good denial, said Grizzlies senior post Julia Sobolik, who produced six points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals in her usual supporting-yet-vital role. And then we sagged back and kind of clogged the middle. ... We knew they were not the strongest outside shooters. We were well-prepared.

Steve Humann, Ashland's first-year head coach, gave credit to assistant Ross Coldwell for the defensive game plan.

We knew what a good defensive team they were, Humann said. And we came out and played our own good defense.

Offensively, the Grizzlies tried to take what they gave us, Humann said, and were paced by their typical trio of Morin, Carlson and sophomore guard Hilary Huyett.

Morin gave Ashland an early boost with eight points on 3-for-3 shooting in the first quarter and needed just 11 field-goal attempts, making seven, to post her total of 18 points.

She's the toughest post we've seen all year, said Cleary, well-aware that Morin is the SOC's top scorer and ranks fourth in the state at 18.1 points per game. We doubled her, we fronted her, we did a couple different things, and she was able to score at will, basically.

She could've scored more, if she was a selfish player. But she's not. She's just a good, solid player, who tries to get her team involved. That's a coach's dream.

Carlson chimed in with nine of her 11 points after the break, including two pretty 3-point plays in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies broke McNary's full-court press. She also grabbed seven rebounds and dished four assists.

Huyett missed her first five shots but still scored 10 points, including two of her trademark 3-pointers.

Ashland shot 39.1 percent (18-for-46) from the field and 82.4 percent (14-for-17) from the free-throw line and outrebounded the Celtics 30-21. The Grizzlies did commit 21 turnovers, including 12 in the second half.

Ashland is very balanced, Cleary said. All five kids that they put on the floor can score. And they're intense defensively.

I think they have a good chance to get in the state tournament. I think they can get by Tualatin (the second seed out of the Pac-9 Conference), because of that balance.

McNary was paced by senior post Kristin Yankus' 12 points and six rebounds. Junior guard Kaitlyn George, the Celtics' lone first-team all-Valley selection, was held to two points, nine off her team-leading average.

McNARY (31) '

George 2, K. Yankus 12, Taylor 2, Guile 2, Hess 3, E. Yankus 3, McDonnell 2, Cowan 4, Sonis 2, Behrends 0, Ziebart 0, Schneider 0. Totals: 10-38 11-22 31.

ASHLAND (52) ' Hansen 2, Sobolik 6, Morin 18, Huyett 10, Carlson 11, Roupp 0, Hill 3, Golling 2, Hasty 0, Badenhop 0. Totals: 18-46 14-17 52.

McNary ....................................... 7 — 7 14 ' 31

Ashland ................................... 15 9 13 15 ' 52

3-point goals ' Ashland 2 (Huyett 2).

Ashland?s Tess Golling, left, Bailey Hasty, center, and Ariel Badenhop celebrate from the bench during Thursday?s playoff game against McNary. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli