Ashland boys, girls set to host Rotary Hoop Classic

Tom McCracken just wants a little consistency.

Ashland High's first-year girls basketball coach has seen his team play well in spurts, but missed shots, foul trouble and injuries have led to a 1-4 start heading into this weekend's Ashland Rotary Hoop Classic.

With just three weeks and seven games standing between the Grizzlies and their Jan. 6 Southern Sky Conference opener at Eagle Point, McCracken says it's time for the team to pick it up.

Ashland hosts undefeated Summit (3-0) in the semifinals of the Classic Friday at Southern Oregon University's McNeal Pavilion. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

"We won the tournament last year and our goal is to defend," McCracken said. "But our other goal is to get better."

The Ashland boys (4-3) also play their semifinal Classic game Friday night against Henley (1-4), with that tip-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Also Friday, the South Medford (1-2) and Marshfield (3-1) girls tip-off the eight-team tournament at 2:15 p.m. and the Marshfield (3-1) and Summit (2-1) boys face off at 4 p.m.

The championship games will be played Saturday. All games will be played at McNeal Pavilion.

The Ashland girls went into the offseason with high hopes after a sixth-place finish in the 2008 state tournament, but things haven't gone exactly as planned since then. First, the Grizzlies' former head coach Steve Farley left to take a job at the University of Utah. Then, Ashland lost senior all-state post Brenna Heater to a nagging ankle injury that finally required surgery prior to the season.

While Heater is still holding out hope that she'll return to the team, things didn't get any easier on the Grizzlies once the season began. Junior all-star guard Allison Gida sprained her ankle in the first game of the season, opponents have shot a blistering 59 percent from long range (16 of 27) against the Grizzlies and shots that normally go down for Ashland's guards are routinely clanking off the rim.

Add all that to the fact that Ashland is playing for its third coach in three years and suddenly the Grizzlies' subpar start doesn't look so bad.

Still, McCracken hoped for more wins up to this point and is convinced that the offense will come around once those shots start to fall and the Grizzlies get used to playing without an overpowering post.

"Yeah, we're disappointed in our record," he said. "We expected we'd be a little better than that, but we had (Gida) out a couple games and she's not at full speed, we haven't shot the ball from the guard spot like we know that we will and we're not taking care of the basketball like we should. So definitely, there are some areas that we need to improve on if we're going to defend as conference champions."

McCracken said Gida's ankle is still only about "75 percent" healthy, but didn't blame the slow start on that key injury. Instead, he said, Ashland's struggles can be somewhat attributed to the Grizzlies' ongoing adjustment to life after Heater.

"For three years our girls have been accustomed to pounding the ball into Brenna and we have to become accustomed to changing that," McCracken said. "We need more from our guards, and I still feel that we have good perimeter shooters."

Sports editor Joe Zavala can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or

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