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Ashland girls earn Max King title

Cassidy Caprari placed third overall to lead four Grizzlies who finished in the top 11 as the Ashland High School girls cross country team rolled to a team victory in the 11-team Max King Invitational Thursday at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point.

Caprari, a sophomore,  finished the 5,000-meter course in 19 minutes, 31.4 seconds to lead the Grizzlies, who ended up with 45 points to edge Midwestern League rival Crater (50) and Class 6A program Grants Pass (81).

South Medford freshman Emma Schmerbach easily won the girls race in 18:17.7 and Crater's Ariana Marks placed second in 19:18.3.

In boys action, Ashland's Alex Franklin's fourth-place finish in 15:54.2 helped the Grizzlies take fourth in the team race. Crater had the top three placers, including winner Andy Monroe (15:28.4), to dominate the team competition with 22 points. The Grizz boys were competing without star sophomore EJ Holland, who's won all five races he's competed in this season.

The Ashland girls were well represented at the Expo, as Sage Reddish placed fifth (19:49.2), Hazel Richards eighth (20:00.1) and Milan Hague 11th (20:07.3). Also for the Grizzlies, Maddie Armstrong finished 18th in 20:27.2.

For the Ashland boys, Henry Williams placed 15th in 16:29.9, Reed Pryor 16th in 16:31.6 and Henry Cobb 19th in 16:45.0.

Men's Basketball

While it's always true that nothing is settled by preseason polls, it has rarely been more true than when the 2017-18 Cascade Collegiate Conference men's basketball poll was released Tuesday.

Six different teams received at least one first-place vote — a first, according to the league office. Southern Oregon got two of them and was second overall in the poll, behind preseason favorite College of Idaho and just ahead of Oregon Tech.

With their youngest team in 22nd-year coach Brian McDermott's tenure, the Raiders went 18-13 overall last year and finished fifth in the CCC with a 12-8 record. Senior guards Ben DeSaulnier (a two-time All-CCC selection) and Kenny Meyer (a third-year starter) and junior all-conference point guard Tristen Holmes highlight a returning group of 10 that didn't lose a starter. Sophomores Conor Carroll, Tate Hoffman and Jordan Hunt were part of last year's freshman class that received over half the team's minutes.

C of I was the only team that garnered three of the 11 first-place votes. The Yotes bring back two starters after finishing in a three-way tie for second place with Oregon Tech and Eastern Oregon last year. Northwest Christian, which has won the last two regular-season titles, was picked fourth.

Women's Basketball

A new-look Southern Oregon women's basketball team has been pegged as a team to beat again as it seeks a third straight Cascade Collegiate Conference title.

In the CCC preseason coaches' poll released Wednesday by the league office, SOU was picked second behind Eastern Oregon, last year's co-champion with the Raiders and the eventual conference tournament champ. The Mountaineers received nine first-place votes and the Raiders two, while Northwest Christian and Oregon Tech were third and fourth in the poll.

Alex Carlson, who has gone 60-7 overall and 37-3 in the CCC in his first two seasons combined as head coach of the Raiders, lost four starters to graduation but replenished the roster with eight freshmen and three transfers.

SOU's top returner, senior point guard Toria Bradford, is a former CCC Defensive Player of the Year, and senior wing Casey Williams is back to take on an expanded role after serving as the Raiders' top reserve last season. They'll be joined in the backcourt by senior Remi Mejia, a graduate transfer from Portland State who was once an all-state player for local powerhouse South Medford High.

Eastern Oregon brings back four starters, including all-conference guards Maya Ah You-Dias and Payton Parrish and all-conference forward Stormee Van Belle.

SOU went 27-5 overall last year, ticking off a school-record winning streak of 21 games, and made a return trip to the national tournament after appearing in the NAIA Division II championship game for the first time in 2016.