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Ashland hangs on for win over rival Crater

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Grizzlies edge No. 7 Comets for their first victory in last five years at the Crater gym

Maybe the best thing that could have happened for Ashland’s boys basketball team was its suspended season for the bulk of January.

Obviously the Grizzlies would have rather been playing during their COVID-induced 3 1/2 week layoff, but the results since returning to the court have been undeniable — even with a 50-42 road loss at North Eugene late Monday night.

Facing a tough matchup at seventh-ranked Crater in Central Point, Ashland broke the game open with a 19-6 surge in the second quarter Tuesday night and then held off a typical Comet comeback attempt for a 57-53 victory.

The win was Ashland’s fourth in five games since restarting its season — and first on Crater’s home court in five years — with Hawthorn Lapierre leading the charge with 26 points in the key Midwestern League clash.

“The pause really gave this group a reminder of how much they love this and love playing with each other,” said Grizzlies head coach Sam Osofsky. “Losing the season lit a fire under these guys and made them want it even more so they’re going out and competing. We made just enough plays to hold them off tonight.”

For Crater (15-5, 7-4 MWL), Tuesday marked the return of an issue that has plagued the team in recent weeks, with lulls in play resulting in double-digit deficits until the Comets ultimately fight back into contention with fourth-quarter flurries.

“It’s just same movie, different day,” said first-year Crater head coach Brian Broaddus. “We get down by a lot and fight back to make it interesting and then just can’t get over the hump.”

Crater trailed 42-30 heading to the fourth quarter Tuesday before closing to within one possession midway through the frame.

Colton Vranes scored 14 points and the Comets got 12 apiece from Javon Smith and Tate Broesder, whose driving basket cut Crater’s deficit to 42-39 with plenty of game left to be played.

“That’s a really hard place to go get a win,” Osofsky said of the Comets’ gym. “It’s a tough group of experienced seniors and they’re really well-coached so we knew they were going to make it tough. To go over there and execute a win, no matter how many it’s by or how you do it, it’s hard to do. I’m really proud of our seniors, those guys had not won a game at Crater and they really earned it tonight.”

Lapierre came up with key baskets or free throws in the fourth to hold the Comets at bay for the Grizzlies (8-6, 5-2). Just about every time Crater would close the gap, Lapierre had an answer and was boosted by the play of senior point guard Toby Barnes.

“Toby avoiding as many turnovers as we could with how frantic the game got was big for us,” said Osofsky, “and whether it was a free throw or under the hoop basket off rebounds, Hawthorn seemed to be in the right place all night.”

It was 48-46 after Vranes stole the ball and followed with a pair of free throws with just under two minutes to play when Lapierre took advantage of Crater’s tight defense by slipping to the rim for his biggest basket of the night to stem the tide.

Still, the Comets kept fighting and when Logan Price dived to the floor for a loose ball and set in motion a pinball series between Caden Lasater and Broesder, who scored on the play, it was 53-50 with 25 seconds remaining.

Izzy Golden went 1-for-2 from the foul line for Ashland and, after a missed 3-pointer by Ashton Acrey, Lapierre was sent to the line twice in the final stretch and was 3-for-4 from the charity stripe — intentionally missing his last shot — to offset a 3-pointer by Vranes.

“They made shots and rebounded and we didn’t, and that’s the game,” said Broaddus, whose team was 3-for-25 from 3-point range.

“We’re small so if we make eight or more 3s, we’re in pretty good shape,” he added. “If we’re seven or under we struggle, and we just got killed on the boards. It’s hard to beat a team when you’re giving up second- and third-chance opportunities.”

Ashland will welcome fans back in the stands for Friday’s matchup with No. 4 Churchill for the first time since its hiatus, while Crater hosts Springfield in what should be another good challenge for the Comets.

ASHLAND (57): Stowasser 7, Lapierre 26, Golden 3, Wright 3, Thompson 4, Lehnerz 0, Barnes 5, Shields 9. Totals: 20 12-18 57.

CRATER (53): Acrey 0, Lasater 3, Vranes 14, Smith 12, L. Price 6, Idiart 0, K. Price 6, Broesder 12. Totals: 18 14-21 53.

Ashland 11 19 12 15— 57

Crater 15 6 9 23— 53

3-point goals — Ashland 5 (Stowasser 2, Lapierre 1, Wright 1, Barnes 1), Crater 3 (Vranes 1, Smith 1, Broesder 1).

Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Kadin Price dives for the ball in front of Ashland’s Hawthorn Lapierre during the second quarter of Tuesday night’s game.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Tate Broesder drives to the basket during the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s game against Ashland.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Izzy Golden steals the ball during the third quarter of Tuesday night’s game against Crater.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Hawthorn Lapierre shoots for two points during the third quarter of Tuesday night’s game against Crater.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Egan Shields gets fouled driving to the basket with the two points during the third quarter of Tuesday night’s game against Crater.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Hawthorn Lapierre dunks the ball during the third quarter of Tuesday night’s game against Crater.