Down 11 at the half, Ashland High boys basketball coach Keithan Gregg told the Grizzlies at halftime on Tuesday that the second half was their most important of the season so far.
Adding even more intrigue, Eagle Point then opened the second half in stall mode, holding the ball and forcing Ashland to come out of its zone defense.
Ashland responded with its most impressive comeback of the season, unleashing a suffocating man-to-man defense before riding the hot hands of Walker Shibley-Styer and Collin Malcolm to a wild 58-48 comeback win over the Eagles at Mountain Avenue Gym.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” Gregg said. “I challenged our guys at halftime. I said, ‘If you want to turn your season around it’s right now, right in front of you.’ The guys responded and I couldn’t be happier for them.”
Shibley-Styer scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of key 3-pointers, and Malcolm added 10 of his 14 points in the final frame as Ashland (9-6, 3-3 Midwestern League) scored as many points in the fourth (29) as it did in the previous three quarters combined. It was the Grizzlies’ third win in their last four games.
Eagle Point (6-9, 1-5), led by Ethan DeVore’s 16 points, let a 31-20 halftime lead slip away and suffered its fifth loss in a row.
The visiting Eagles were in good position to pull off the road upset after outscoring the Grizzlies 18-14 in the second half, but in a strange twist in a back-and-forth game that included three technical fouls Eagle Point executed a slow-down game plan to start the second half. It backfired when the Grizzlies’ defense held the Eagles to just two points in the third, which ended with EP still nursing a 33-29 cushion.
Ashland then took off in the fourth, with Shibley-Styer getting hot from outside and the rest of the Grizzlies attacking the rim at will. Ashland's aggressiveness paid off at the free-throw line, where it hit 20 of 34 shots.
“It was (Shibley-Styer) and Malcolm,” Gregg said. “They’re my captains and they decided on the offensive end that they were going to shoulder the load. They just got it done. They wouldn’t let us lose tonight.”
Gregg also credited sophomore junior varsity call-ups Jake Hansen and Peyton Fuller with giving the Grizzlies a much-needed lift in the second quarter.
The win gave Ashland a split through the first half of league play. The Grizzlies open the second half of the round-robin MWL schedule Friday against Marist.
“It’s good for our program,” Gregg said. “Now, guys that have never won before are now getting a taste of winning and what it feels like. It’s good because they work hard every day and it’s good to see some benefits from it.”
EAGLE POINT (48) – DeVore 16, Sowell 9, Barber 7, Bell 6, Hunter 4, Shelton 4, Bennett 2, Castro 0, Reyes-Serna 0. Totals: 17 7-9 48.
ASHLAND (58) – Shibley-Styer 16, Malcolm 14, Hasskamp 7, Pippa 6, Hansen 6, Fuller 3, Ellis 2, Feinberg 2, Jones 1, Kennedy 1, Edson 0, Meads 0. Totals: 15 20-34 58.
Eagle Point 13 18 2 15 – 48
Ashland 6 14 9 29 – 58
3-point goals – Eagle Point 7 (Hunter 1, Barber 1, DeVore 2, Sowell 3), Ashland 6 (Hasskamp 1, Shibley-Styer 2, Malcolm 1, Pippa 1, Fuller 1). Fouled out – Sowell, Bell, DeVore. Technical fouls – Eagle Point bench, Eagle Point coach Bryan Wood, Ashland coach Keithan Gregg.
JV result – Eagle Point won.
Ashland saw perhaps its best chance yet at breaking through in the Midwestern League slip away in the fourth quarter.
Senior forward Sydney May scored a game-high 19 points and Eagle Point’s zone defense held Ashland to 11 second-half points as the Eagles beat the Grizzlies 41-31 at Mountain Avenue Gym.
In a game between two teams that had yet to win a league game, it was the Eagles that finally broke through thanks in part to a 13-6 fourth-quarter advantage. Eagle Point improved to 9-7 overall and 1-5 in the MWL while dropping Ashland to 7-9 and 0-6.
“The shots were there, we just weren’t hitting them,” Ashland head coach Ashley Hafner said. “We haven’t won a league game yet but it’s not because they’re not winnable. It’s because we’re not taking care of what we need to take care of.”
Senior guard Georgia Williams scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead the Grizzlies, while senior post Michaela Dunn added eight points in her return from an ankle injury. Leilani Sukles, a sophomore post, grabbed five boards.
Ashland plays Marist in Eugene on Friday.
EAGLE POINT (41) – May 19, Crowe 0, Wood 10, Lester 0, Briggs 8, Nielsen 0, Hoefft 4. Totals: 16 6-11 41.
ASHLAND (31) – Williams 16, Teixeira 2, Dunn 8, Webster 2, Sukles 1, Read 2, Rodriquez 0, Altig 0, Elder-Hammond 0, Brookins 0. Totals: 9 11-19 31.
Eagle Point 11 12 5 13 – 41
Ashland 11 9 5 6 – 31
3-point goals – Eagle Point 3 (May 1, Wood 2), Ashland 2 (Williams 2).
JV score – Eagle Point 33, Ashland 26.