Ashland takes one on the chin

For the second year in a row Marist has dealt Ashland a season-ending loss. And this time, it wasn't even close.

Playing almost a year to the day after Marist edged the Grizzlies in a 2011 play-in game, the Spartans made it look far easier Friday night, stomping Ashland 49-30 in a Class 5A girls basketball play-in game at Mountain Avenue Gym.

Marist's 6-foot-3 post Hanna Mack scored 15 points in the first half and was held scoreless against Ashland's collapsing defense in the second. But that strategy came at a price for the Grizzlies (14-11), as Mack's supporting cast took advantage of the open space by hitting open jumpers and cutting to the basket for easy layups.

The result: Marist (15-10) hit 8 of 17 shots and 9 of 15 free throws in the second half while outscoring the Grizzlies 27-12.

"We definitely played with our hearts, we put everything on the court and right now those girls probably are so sore and that's exactly what I really wanted," Ashland head coach Emily Hesse said. "They came out strong, they came out aggressive and they didn't stop until that buzzer rang and that's super nice to see. Some of our shot selection was a little iffy, but all in all the shots that we put up in other games went in, and in this game they just didn't go in."

Senior wing Allison Shulenberger had 13 points and nine rebounds to lead the Grizzlies, while Sarah Pavlich added nine points and Sarah Kasiah seven. The trio struggled to hit shots, however, combining to go 11-for-42 from the floor, including 5-for-18 from 3-point land.

Many of those shots came after Ashland shifted into desperation mode following a 19-5 run by Marist that gave it a 41-23 lead with 4 minutes, 29 seconds to go in the game.

Ashland shot 20 percent for the game, hitting 11 of 55 shots in its lowest-scoring outing since Dec. 16.

"They were hitting shots and we weren't, and that's the frustrating part," Hesse said.

Mack hit 7 of 11 shots to lead all scorers while also pulling down seven rebounds and delivering a monster block in the fourth quarter. Delanee Martin added 13 points and five rebounds for Marist, and Chloe Cummins and Sami Pitts scored eight points apiece.

"I thought we did a very nice job — we've really emphasized (getting the ball to Mack) the last few weeks and I thought (Mack) did a nice job finishing," Marist co-head coach Chuck Wenger said. "She didn't score in the second half and we extended it, and that's a big thing for us. They did a nice job taking her out and we were able to adjust."

The Spartans scored the first nine points of the game before Kasiah, one of the Grizzlies' four seniors, finally put Ashland on the board by nailing a 3-pointer with 3:55 to go in the first quarter. Ashland finished the quarter on an 8-4 run to cut the lead to 13-8, and used a six-point burst in the second quarter to cut Marist's lead to 17-16.

Marist weathered the storm to take a 22-18 lead into the half. At that point, the game looked like it would at least be competitive and possibly down-to-the-wire thrilling.

Then Marist opened the second half on a 7-0 run and didn't allow the Grizzlies to score until Pavlich made a 3 with 3:24 to go in the third quarter.

Things went south fast for the Grizzlies from there. Martin swished a 3, Cummins hit three free throws and Pitts converted a three-point play early in the fourth quarter to give Marist a 38-23 cushion. Martin broke loose for a fastbreak layup to put the Spartans up by 17 with 6:20 to go. Ashland seemed to press the panic button after that, swarming the passing lanes and hoisting 3s, but Marist remained composed while stretching its lead to as much as 22 points (46-24) on Martin's 3 with 2:05 left.

Wenger expected a hard-fought game after Marist eked out a 33-29 play-in victory in Ashland last year, but this time the Spartans could afford to relax down the stretch.

"I was real happy," Wenger said. "I thought our kids were just really focused."

Ashland entered the game on a hot streak, having won seven of its previous 10 games, but will miss out on the playoffs for the second year in a row.

"It was great to see those girls working hard every single game, every single time in practice and I was just so impressed," Hesse said. "It's always tough knowing that you're not going to get those four (seniors) again, knowing that they wanted it all and it didn't happen for them. You want them as a coach to have the best senior season they can have and a loss isn't the best."

MARIST (49) — Houser 0, Yates 0, Anderson 2, Harrison 0, Martin 13, Pitts 8, Cummins 8, Gehrig 3, Rivas 0, Mack 15. Totals: 18-38 10-18 49.

ASHLAND (30) — Shulenberger 13, Sad. Kasiah 0, Sar. Kasiah 7, Minor 0, Williams 1, Zehren 0, Pavlich 9, Thornton 0. Totals: 11-55 5-23 30.

Marist 13 9 13 14 — 49

Ashland 8 10 5 7 — 30

3-point goals — Marist 3-9 (Martin 3), Ashland 5-23 (Shulenberger 2, Sar. Kasiah 2, Pavlich 1).

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