Grizz girls can stop the slide tonight
Ding-ding-ding. The final votes have been tallied and the most-asked question of the week, and month for that matter, is as follows: what's going on with the Ashland High girls' basketball team?
The short answer is quite obvious to those who have watched Ashland's last two games, road losses to Grants Pass and Crater: The Grizzlies are still figuring out who they are.
Last season, when 6-foot post Marla Morin dominated the paint, the Grizzlies had a default game plan that they knew would probably work when nothing else did.
Need to hold a lead? Throw it into Marla.
Getting jobbed by those darn Roseburg officials? Throw it into Marla.
Down by three with five seconds left? Throw it into Marla — and hope she gets fouled.
Morin got hit with passes while sitting on the bench. And scored!
But she also graduated, leaving a big hole in the middle, and the outside, and the edges, and pretty much everywhere because everything the Grizzlies did started and ended with the self-proclaimed "true 6-footer."
Now, with the great equalizer gone, conference wins have been tougher to come by. Much tougher.
Ashland is currently 3-3 in the Southern Oregon Conference, three games behind tonight's opponent, league-leading North Medford (6-0). If the Grizzlies can't trip up North, they could wake up Wednesday morning south of South Medford in the standings. That's SOUTH Medford.
And I thought Howard Dean had problems.
Still, there's hope.
While things took a turn for the worse during the recent 0-3 road trip, Grizz fans can take solace in the following facts: this is the same Grizzly team that looked nearly unstoppable at times during a great 12-1 start, the same team that was picked to win the SOC conference in a preseason coaches poll and the same team that won its first three league games.
Alysse Carlson and Hilary Huyett are still the best guard duo in the conference and Jamie Roupp and Abeni Hill are still animals on the boards.
So what's the problem? Well, for one, Ashland's greatest strength early on - scoring ability - has suddenly become a glaring weakness.
Ashland was held below 50 points just three times in its first 13 games and broke the 60-point barrier five times. Since, the Grizzlies haven't cracked 48 and are averaging just 39.
Some of the drop off is a direct result of injuries and the like - Roupp, Huyett and Hill each have been slowed by sickness or hurts over the past three weeks. But the rest has to do with how opposing defenses are adjusting to the Grizzlies' plan of attack. Get out on Ashland's shooters, the book reads, and the Grizzlies will struggle.
The good news for the Grizzlies is, they have a great basketball mind in head coach Steve Humann on their side. He's working the problem.
Have patience people. The Grizzlies are resilient and the talent is there. Besides, what better way to start turning around a season than by beating North Medford?
Meanwhile, at SOU, the Raider men's basketball team has suddenly become the team to watch in Ashland.
The Raiders are tied with Oregon Tech for second place in the Cascade Conference, two games behind Albertson with seven games left.
They play Evergreen and Northwest at home this weekend and if you don't go you'll be missing out on the best show in town. SOU is averaging 75 points on 47-percent shooting, has one of the best players in the conference in 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Shea Washington (19 points, 9 rebounds per game) and seems to enjoy waiting until the final seconds to clinch league victories (four CC wins by four points or less).
If the Raiders can stay within striking distance of the league lead, two games will stand out as "can't miss" events: Feb. 13 at home against fifth-ranked Albertson and the season-finale Feb. 21 at Oregon Tech.