ASHLAND — The verdict is in: Watching a basketball game at the newly renovated Mountain Avenue Gym is an improvement over watching one at Ashland Middle School.
Talk about a $7.7-million relief.
The Ashland High girls basketball team kicked off the proceedings for the home teams with a 46-35 win over Summit in the opening round of the Ashland Rotary Hoop Classic Friday. Two games involving out-of-town teams were played earlier in the day, and the Grizzly boys played the day's final contest, beating Summit, 64-54.
Although the action in the Ashland girls game wasn't pretty, it unfolded amid a festive atmosphere after months of anticipation.
"This is something the Ashland community has been waiting for a long time," Grizzly coach Tom McCracken said after his team improved to .500 at 4-4. "It's very exciting to finally get in here. There's been talk of a new gym since most of these girls started school, and now it's a reality.
"This is just a very special night all around."
Fans came out in full force to witness the unveiling, packing in most of what Ashland athletic director Karl Kemper estimated to be a 2,000-seat capacity gym.
"Man, it feels good to be in here," Kemper said. "It's just everything we could have hoped for, and to get the awesome response from everybody like we have tonight makes the whole process worth it."
University of Utah signee Allison Gida was limited by foul trouble most of the night, as the senior guard picked up her second foul three minutes into the game and was sent to the bench for the half when she picked up her third a minute into the second quarter.
Junior guard Kayla Reynolds picked up the slack, taking advantage of Summit's box-and-one defense on Gida by knocking down three first-half 3-pointers and four in the game for a team-high 12 points.
Reynolds' 3-pointer just 11/2 minutes into contest made her the first Grizzly to score in the new gym.
Gida, playing with a blister on her shooting hand, spent most of the night posting up smaller guards but was held to two field goals and seven points.
"She was definitely frustrated, and I saw her miss some shots tonight that I've never seen her miss before," McCracken said. "Give them credit though because they did a great job on her. But I'm not worried about Allison; she'll be just fine."
Katie Shulenberger sparked the Grizzlies after replacing Gida, maneuvering her way to the basket for a three-point play and knocking down a free-throw line jumper to give Ashland its biggest lead of the game at 23-11. But the advantage was cut to eight at halftime and five after the first possession of the third quarter, thanks to consecutive Summit 3s.
Gida went to the bench again when she picked up her fourth foul before the end of the third with Ashland clinging to a 33-26 lead entering the final period. Summit got within four following a pair of Sarah Edwards free throws with seven minutes left but would not get any closer.
"Our girls stepped up tonight without Allison on the floor," McCracken said. "She's such a huge part of what we do because she leads us in everything, but it's important that we learn to play without her, too, and I think tonight was a positive step."
Chelsie Schoenborn led the Storm with a game-high 20 points, and Katie Patton helped Ashland's cause with 10.
Ashland will gun for its fifth consecutive Ashland Rotary Hoop Classic championship today when it hosts North Medford at 4:45 p.m.
SUMMIT (35) — Defoe 5, Parr 3, Schoenborn 20, Edwards 7. Totals: 11 9-14 35.
ASHLAND (46) — Shulenberger 5, Van Vleck 6, Sturges 6, Reynolds 12, Patton 10, Gida 7. Totals: 17 6-9 46.
Summit 7 12 7 9 — 35
Ashland 15 12 7 12 — 46
3-point goals — Summit 4 (Schoenborn 3, Parr 1), Ashland 6 (Reynolds 4, Van Vleck 1, Sturges 1). Fouled out — Gida.