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Heater's monster game not enough for Ashland

PORTLAND — She hit inside, she hit outside, she rebounded everything in sight and blocked the rest. But in the end, not even the unstoppable Brenna Heater could carry Ashland past the defending state champions.

Heater had 36 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks but fouled out with 1:33 left in overtime as No. 3 Willamette advanced to the Class 5A state semifinals with a 55-48 win Wednesday night at the Chiles Center.

Alyxe Bruns hit 8 of 19 field goals en route to a team-high 26 points to lead the Wolverines (26-1), who earned a semifinal date with No. 1 Jefferson (25-0) Friday night.

No. 2 Ashland (24-3), which suffered its first loss since Nov. 30, drops into the consolation bracket, where it will play Bend (15-9) at 10:45 a.m. today.

"I feel obviously sad, but I'm still excited to be here," said Heater, who hit 13 of her 23 field-goal attempts, mostly in the paint, to go with a 10 for 14 effort at the line. "I'm really proud — my team played awesome. I don't think we could have come out with any more intensity, any more fire."

The Grizzlies' best chance to win came late in regulation. After playing from behind almost the entire way, Ashland tied the game on two Heater free throws with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

The Wolverines played for the final shot, but Bruns, in a rare mistake, lost control of the ball, Ashland's Kelsey McKinnis snared it and the Grizzlies called a timeout with 4.5 seconds to go.

After the timeout, Heater took a pass at the top of the key, drove toward the hoop and let fly a runner from the free-throw line.

It bounced hard off the backboard and barely touched the front of the rim just before the horn sounded.

"We got not a great shot, but a decent shot," Ashland first-year head coach Steve Farley said. "If there's a person you want shooting the ball, it's Brenna."

Two free throws by Heater with 3:27 left in overtime gave Ashland its first lead since early in the second quarter at 48-46, but two crucial calls against the 6-foot-3 post over the next two minutes seemed to finally squeeze the life out of the Grizzlies.

Heater picked up her fourth foul trying to block an inside jumper by Shimea Jordan with 3:11 left, then fouled out when Jordan took a charge.

Willamette led by just one at the time, but Ashland's offense stalled the rest of the way and the Wolverines hit 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch to cap a 9-0, game-ending rally.

"Obviously we had no answer for Heater — and I'm not sure anybody does, to be honest with you — but they didn't have any answer for our speed, either," Willamette head coach Paul Brothers said. "It came down to their size versus our speed, and speed finally won out. But it was a heck-of-a basketball game."

Heater was the only Grizzly to score more than five points, as Willamette played man-to-man defense almost exclusively and stifled Ashland's perimeter players in the process.

McKinnis, Ashland's best outside shooter, was held to five points on 2-of-10 shooting and Allison Gida, the Southern Sky Conference player of the year, was held to one point in 27 foul-plagued minutes.

Gida also pulled down eight rebounds and had five assists, as the Grizzlies dominated the boards 45-27.

For Willamette, Ashley Smith had 10 points and four rebounds and Katie Collins added seven points and four boards. The Wolverines were as efficient as usual, too, committing just five turnovers to Ashland's 17.

Heater scored Ashland's first 13 points to put the Grizzlies up 13-12 early in the second quarter. Willamette used a 13-1 run over the next five minutes to turn that one-point deficit into a 25-14 lead. Bruns, a wiry guard who burned everyone the Grizzlies threw at her, led that charge, then scored seven points in the last four minutes of the first half to help the Wolverines take a 29-18 lead into the break.

After the game, Bruns and Heater were named the Qwest Players of the Game. Bruns certainly earned it: Like two of her fellow starters, she played all 37 minutes.

"We don't have a deep bench," Brothers said.

Ashland dug into the lead in the third quarter, using a 7-1 rally to get within 36-34. It was 38-36 heading into the fourth and 45-40 after Bruns drained two free throws with 2:56 left in regulation.

Despite the disappointing finish, the Grizzlies said they won't have any trouble getting motivated for today's game against Bend, which fell to Jefferson 60-38.

"It's behind us," junior forward Layla Zare said. "We're excited and ready to go get a win."

Ashland (24-3)

Pavlich 1-1 0-0 2, Siebenlist 1-3 0-4 2, McKinnis 2-10 0-0 5, Gida 0-4 1-2 1, Heater 13-23 10-14 36, Van Vleck 0-4 0-0 0, Silbowitz 0-0 0-0 0, Zare 0-0 0-1 0, Petitt 1-2 0-0 2, Patton 0-0 0-0 0, Del Carlo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-47 11-21 48.

Willamette (26-1)

Bruns 8-19 9-16 26, Garner 2-8 0-0 4, Smith 3-15 3-6 10, Collins 1-2 5-6 7, Jordan 3-3 2-4 8, Harper 0-0 0-0 0, Munson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-47 19-32 55.

Ashland 12 6 18 10 2 —48

Willamette 10 18 9 8 9 —55

3-point goals-Ashland 1-9 (McKinnis 1-4, Van Vleck 0-2, Heater 0-1, Gida 0-1, Siebenlist 0-1); Willamette 2-10 (Smith 1-4, Bruns 1-5, Collins 0-1). Steals-Ashland 2, Willamette 8 (Bruns 3). Assists-Ashland 14 (Gida 6), Willamette 5 (Bruns 3). Turnovers-Ashland 17, Willamette 5. Personal fouls - Ashland 26, Willamette 15.

Joe Zavala is sports editor of the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 482-3456, ext. 224, or e-mail joe.zavala@dailytidings.com

Ashland’s Brenna Heater, left, scores two of her game-high 36 points against Willamette on Wednesday. - Craig Mitchelldyer