Grizzlies take down Comets
CENTRAL POINT — It wasn’t always pretty but Ashland shrugged off a slow start and executed well when it mattered most to secure a 50-46 upset of No. 4 Crater in Midwestern League boys basketball Tuesday.
The Grizzlies fell down by six points to open the game but rallied to lead for most of the contest before ultimately staving off a frenzied comeback effort by the Comets on their home floor.
Ashland junior guard Walker Shibley-Styer scored 14 of his game-high 21 points in the first half, but it was his floater in the paint in the fourth quarter that gave the Grizzlies their final lead and, after others struggled, he drained 3 of 4 foul shots in the final four seconds to preserve the win.
“We had a tough loss last Friday (at Churchill) but coach (Keithan Gregg) really refocused us and we just played for each other and got the ‘W’ tonight,” said Shibley-Styer, who also had five rebounds.
The victory by Ashland (7-5, 1-2 MWL) didn’t come without a few nervous moments — and maybe a little controversy — after Crater (10-4, 2-1) refused to give in despite battling a rough shooting night by the 3-point specialists.
The Comets came up empty twice from long range in the final 40 seconds but were kept alive after Ashland senior Collin Malcolm twice missed the front end of one-and-ones on the opposite end. Trailing 47-46 with 10.2 seconds left, Crater finally got the ball inside to 6-foot-7 senior post Race Reiter, who bumped into sophomore defender McKane Ellis and powered home a shot from the block with 4.4 seconds left.
That go-ahead basket, however, was waived off after Reiter was called for an offensive foul — much to the chagrin of the Crater faithful.
Comets interim head coach Terry Rasmussen was diplomatic about the pivotal moment.
“Who knows? It’s all perspective,” Rasmussen said of the offensive foul. “One referee sees it one way and one referee sees it another way. The issue is we should never have been in that position. We can’t blame the ref for the loss, we should’ve played in such a way that we weren’t in that position to have to deal with that.”
Rasmussen credited Ashland for creating that situation for his Comets.
“You can’t take anything away from the way Ashland played tonight,” he said, “they did a great job. They executed well, and we didn’t execute as well as we could have in a lot of areas. We’ll look at the film and figure it out and come back because we’re going to see them again this season.”
After the foul on Reiter, Crater’s Tanner Mallams was then tagged with an intentional foul on Stenley Graham as they collided with 4.2 seconds to go. Graham missed both free throws but Ashland was able to draw up another in-bounds play and finally found Shibley-Styer, who was fouled with 3.1 seconds on the clock.
Shibley-Styer made his first free throw but missed the second. After a quick timeout by Crater, Gunnar Asher’s long inbounds pass was intercepted near the opposite free-throw line by Shibley-Styer. Another foul allowed him two more foul shots with four-tenths of a second remaining for the final margin.
“We haven’t been in a ton of tough games like that,” said Shibley-Styer, “but it’s going to get cleaner and cleaner as the season goes on. I’m just glad we were able to get that ‘W.’”
Malcolm came up big for Ashland with nine points and five rebounds in the third quarter to help the Grizzlies keep Crater at bay. The 6-5 forward finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Jack Feinberg added seven points and four rebounds and Dominic Meads pulled down six boards.
For Crater, Asher led the charge with 12 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks but was one of many Comets who couldn’t get locked in from beyond the arc. Crater and Ashland each finished 18-for-46 from the field but the Comets connected on only seven of 25 from 3-point range while the Grizzlies made more free throws (10) than Crater attempted (six).
“I told the kids before the game that we’re not always going to shoot like we shot against Marist and we have to be ready for that,” said Rasmussen. “Then we come right out and hit a couple (by Asher) and then the faucet closed down. You have to be prepared for that and (Ashland) had a good game plan to counter what we were doing. My hat’s off to them, they played a heckuva game.”
Christian Reyes finished with 11 points, four rebounds and three assists and Reiter had 10 points, four rebounds and two blocks for Crater.
Dean Orozco’s clutch 3-pointer with 2:25 to play cut his team’s deficit to 47-46 but Ashland’s deliberate, clock-draining offense executed to perfection for the next minute.
Crater was forced to foul on three straight occasions as Ashland kept the ball moving, but the fourth time was the charm as a swarming effort by Reyes and Asher forced a turnover by Graham with 1:01 remaining. The Comets, however, were unable to capitalize after Reyes and Asher missed from beyond the arc on consecutive trips.
The game also featured a buzzer-beating shot from halfcourt by Mallams that cut Ashland’s lead to 31-25 at halftime.
ASHLAND (50) — Shibley-Styer 21, Malcolm 13, Feinberg 7, Meads 4, Graham 3, Hasskamp 2, Ellis 0, Jones 0. Totals: 18-46 10-19 50.
CRATER (46) — Asher 12, Reyes 11, Reiter 10, Orozco 6, Kloke 4, Mallams 3, Martin 0. Totals: 18-46 3-6 46.
3-point goals — Ashland 4-17 (Shibley-Styer 2, Feinberg 1, Graham 1), Crater 7-25 (Asher 3, Reyes 2, Mallams 1, Orozco 1).
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry