Ashland edges Crater, locks up berth to state

If Tuesday was a typical night for Allison Gida, it was only in the sense that she's become accustomed to going home with conference titles.

After the Ashland and Crater girls combined for six turnovers in the 80 seconds that ensued after tipoff, Gida may have gotten caught up in the sloppiness, missing her first six shots.

But after knocking down five straight game-clinching free throws in the final 30 seconds, all that was left for the superstar guard to get caught up in was the celebration.

Gida and the visiting Grizzlies (17-5, 9-0 Southern Sky Conference) labored to squeeze by Crater, 54-49, sweeping the season series between the teams and earning a state tournament berth and at least a share of the SSC championship in the process.

"That was the third straight game we've started off poorly like that," Ashland coach Tom McCracken said. "It was ugly, but Crater is a really good team, just as good as us, and we found a way to get things done so we'll take it."

Even amidst some not-so-typical struggles, Gida finished with 20 points to lead a balanced Grizzly scoring attack.

Shooting guard Jen Noon did her best to delay Ashland's party, keeping the Comets (6-3 SSC) in the game until the buzzer while pouring in a game-high 28 points thanks to six 3-pointers. The senior was held to one 3 the last time the teams met.

"They're a team that lives from behind the arc, and we knew that coming in," McCracken said. "One thing we did well was take away a lot of the easier baskets they had gotten against us in the past with our press, but Noon was just incredible."

An 11-3 run to start the third quarter gave Ashland its biggest lead of the game at 35-26, but Lexi Kappel's layin to start the fourth frame got the Comets back within striking distance and a five-point deficit.

Ashland's Katie Reynolds got open in the corner on a fast break for a 3-pointer that appeared to break the game open at 46-36 with four minutes left, but Noon refused to go away.

Her first triple of the frame cut the lead to four with under a minute left, and she got loose for another following a pair of Ashland free throws made the score 49-46. Noon knocked down one more to get Crater within three with 10 seconds remaining, but two Gida free throws put the game away.

Six costly fourth-quarter turnovers doomed the Comets, who also struggled from the free-throw line at 11-for-19.

"We know we didn't play as well as we should have, but we did the right things at the end of the game," Gida said. "They were ready for us, so we had to find some different ways to score tonight. The big thing was that we stayed calm and loose at the end of the game when they made their run."

With three regular season contests remaining, the Grizzlies need one win or a Crater loss to claim the outright conference title. The postseason appearance will be the fourth straight for Gida, who will resume her playing career at the University of Utah next year.

"I'd say this team is very similar to the other ones we've gone to state with, because we run hard and we get a lot of pressure on the ball," Gida added. "But we still have time to improve, so we'll keep working hard."

Ashland hosts Klamath Union Friday and Mazama on Feb. 19 before wrapping up its regular season Feb. 23 at Eagle Point.

ASHLAND (54) — Van Vleck 6, Sturges 5, McCoy 7, Reynolds 8, Patton 8, Gida 20. Totals: 16 20-35 54.

CRATER (49) — Kappel 5, Powell 4, Noon 28, Steel 5, Cobb 3, Britton 1, McGrath 1. Totals: 15 11-19 49.

Ashland 11 13 15 14 - 54

Crater 8 15 8 18 — 49

3-pointers: Ashland 2 (Reynolds 2), Crater 8 (Noon 6, Steel 1, Cobb 1).

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