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Grizz is all business

CENTRAL POINT — Turns out, Ashland didn't need a dominating performance from Brenna Heater.

The Grizzlies' 6-foot-3 junior center, facing double and sometimes triple teams, finished with 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting from the floor, but No. 2 Ashland still won its 18th consecutive game, downing Crater on the road 50-34 on Tuesday.

With Crater focused on Heater inside, junior guard Kelsey McKinnis took advantage from the outside. She made four straight 3-pointers during a decisive 14-4 Ashland run in the third quarter that turned a seven-point halftime lead into a 17-point advantage.

"If you would have told me that Brenna was going to go 3-for-13 from the field, and we were going to win by 16, I would have said you are crazy," Ashland coach Steve Farley said. "Kelsey did an unbelievable job of getting herself open and knocking down shots. And we did a good job of getting her the ball."

McKinnis finished 5-of-8 shooting from the 3-point line and had 19 total points, one off her season high.

Allison Gida added 14 points, and Heater still managed a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Grizzlies (18-2, 7-0 SSC) have not lost since Nov. 30, 2007, when they fell to Canby, 72-48.

"This is a good win," McKinnis said. "This definitely puts us in control."

Ashland now owns the tiebreaker with Crater in the Southern Sky Conference after also defeating the Comets 42-26 on Jan. 11 at home. Crater (9-7, 5-2 SSC) had won four straight and was sitting in second in the SSC with its only conference loss being at Ashland. The two teams meet again at Crater on Feb. 15.

It was the third-lowest offensive output of the season for the Comets and, with Ashland packing the key, Crater was unable to take advantage with a cold shooting night.

The Comets shot nearly 35 percent and missed their first eight shots to start the second quarter before scoring their first points of the quarter with 2:44 remaining.

Despite a smaller starting lineup, the majority of the Comets' success came near the basket.

Aundrea Albright, a 6-3 senior post, had 10 for Crater and 6-2 senior post Alana Harding came off the bench to score nine points.

"We've had games where we shoot really well from the perimeter and tonight wasn't one of those games," Crater coach J.T. Thomas said. "The word we had coming in was patience. And at times, with a young team, that kind of bit us a little bit."

Ashland used a 10-0 run in the first quarter to pull ahead and did not trail the rest of the way. A 3-pointer by McKinnis in the second quarter capped another 10-0 run, pushing the lead to 20-9.

The Grizzlies benefited from six second-chance points in the first quarter and 10 in the game, which helped offset a 17-for-43 (39 percent) shooting performance. Ashland also committed just seven turnovers.

Crater climbed back to make it a seven-point game at the break on inside baskets by Albright and Harding, but McKinnis helped stretch the lead in the third.

With a flurry of off-the-ball screens, McKinnis found her spots against the Crater defense and her four straight 3-pointers pushed Ashland's lead to 34-17 with around three minutes remaining in the quarter.

McKinnis managed to shake off her first-half shooting woes to finish 6-for-16 from the field.

"It's definitely a big help," Heater said of McKinnis' outside shooting. "If I'm not able to score, I trust her. It's great to know I have people to back me up."

Said Farley: "That's the first time we've hit 3s in a while. It keeps teams from doubling inside."

Two free throws and a 3-point shot from Heater stretched the Grizzlies' lead to 41-23 in the fourth quarter, and Crater managed to get no closer than 12 the rest of the way.

"This was a big win for us," Farley said. "This puts us in the driver's seat as far as our own destiny (in the SSC). But the girls are hungry. They are not going to be satisfied with 18 in a row. They want to win that 19th one and continue it."

ASHLAND (50) — McKinnis 19, Gida 14, Heater 10, Petitt 4, Pavlich 2, Zare 1, Siebenlist 0, DelCarlo 0, Van Vleck 0, Silbowitz 0, Cantreras 0. Totals: 17 10-17 50.

CRATER (34) — Albright 10, Harding 9, Noon 7, Britton 5, Saling 3, Steel 0, Deschamps 0, Heard 0, Hills 0, Kappel 0. Totals: 14 5-12 34.

Ashland 10 10 15 14 — 50

Crater 9 4 10 11 — 34

3-point goals — Ashland 6 (McKinnis 5, Heater 1), Crater 1 (Saling 1).

JV result — Crater 42, Ashland 15.

Reach sports reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail landrews@mailtribune.com

Ashland post Brenna Heater (44) and Crater's Alana Harding chase after a loose ball Tuesday. - Jamie Lusch