Defending big posts hasn't really been a problem for the Ashland High girls basketball team since 6-foot-3 Brenna Heater stormed onto the scene as a ball-hawking terror in 2005.
But with Heater out indefinitely, the Grizzlies will have to find a new way to cope this season. So, who should they turn to when facing a potentially dominating inside scoring force? Their point guard, of course.
Allison Gida held Grants Pass' Natasha Torgerson to six points and Gida scored a game-high 16 herself to lead the Grizzlies to a 40-28 nonconference win in their home opener Tuesday night at Ashland Middle School.
Gida also pulled down five rebounds, had five steals and dished out three assists, as Ashland (2-1) picked up its first win of the season a day after their star guard returned to practice from an ankle injury.
Torgerson, a 6-foot-1 senior forward who is headed to Division-I Sacramento State, averaged 13.5 points in the Cavers' first two games (both wins), but managed just two field goals against Gida, a 5-11 junior.
"You'd think it's pretty crazy that we have our point guard guarding their post, but she knows (Torgerson) very well, she's played against her for years," Ashland first-year head coach Tom McCracken said. "(Gida) said, 'Coach, I can shut her down,' so we put her on their post and that was a significant difference. Allison did a great job defensively."
Also for Ashland, junior guard Kelsey McKinnis had 11 points and two steals and senior post Natalie DelCarlo had six points, seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks.
Grants Pass' three leading scorers — Torgerson, Heather Wonsyld and Kayla Loffer — scored just six points apiece, and the Cavers were held to nine field goals in 21 attempts in a ragged offensive performance that included a four-point first quarter.
"I knew that they were really quick, fast with the ball, and that (Torgerson) was one of their key players, so we had to try to shut her down," Gida said. "It was tough, though."
The game was close until the Grizzlies closed the first half on a 10-2 run and started the second half with a similar 9-2 rally to take a 30-14 lead. McKinnis scored seven points in three minutes to jump-start the Grizzlies in the third quarter — she drilled the only 3-pointer of the game at the 5:57 mark then hit a 15-foot jumper a minute later to extend Ashland's cushion to 14.
The Cavers fought back to within nine points on Loffer's layup with 4:20 to go in the game, but Gida scored and was fouled seven seconds later and her free throw pushed the lead back up to 35-23. The Cavers were never closer than 10 again.
The first girls game of the season at AMS got off to an ugly start, with both teams struggling to run their offense. Ashland led 5-4 after the first quarter, but wasn't happy with it.
"We started off just kind of playing, then during a timeout we decided we wanted to pick it up and we pumped each other up," said the 6-2 DelCarlo, who helped plug up the middle. "We had (Heater) pumping us up, and (McKinnis) and (Gida). Everyone was hyped and we wanted to win."
The boost in intensity ignited Ashland's offense, which scored 16 points in the second quarter to take control of the game. Gida led that charge with eight points, including a fastbreak layup with six seconds left that gave the Grizzlies a 21-12 halftime lead.
With about a month to go before the Grizzlies' league-opener Jan. 6 at Eagle Point, Ashland continues to adjust to life without Heater. The talented senior, who averaged 16 points and 9.7 rebounds last season, underwent ankle surgery in early October to correct an injury that's lingered since her sophomore year. Recovery time varies, but Heater said Tuesday that she can start running again in three weeks and is optimistic that she'll return to the Grizzlies before the season is over.
"It's difficult because they're so used to having (Heater) and looking for her," McCracken said. "Other people have to step it up. I think (DelCarlo) stepped it up really well. She did a good job on the boards, she did a good job on the help defense, played good position. She showed that she knows what she's doing in the game.
"We'll get better each time. It's a real adjustment when you've been Brenna oriented, Brenna oriented, Brenna oriented, and now we don't have that."
GRANTS PASS (28) — Wonsyld 6, Leddy 0, Pepperling 0, Aguilerra 4, Loffer 6, Lathen 2, Stephensa 0, Torgerson 6, Soares 4. Totals: 9-21 10-13 28.
ASHLAND (40) — Van Vleck 2, Contreras 5, McKinnis 11, Petitt 0, Palmesano 0, Reynolds 0, Patton 0, Gida 16, DelCarlo 6. Totals: 14-37 11-13 40.
Grants Pass 4 8 6 10 — 28
Ashland 5 16 11 8 — 40
3-point goal — Ashland 1 (McKinnis 1).
JV score — Grants Pass 33, Ashland 29.
At Grants Pass, David Connelly penetrated and knocked down a 16-foot jump shot with six seconds remaining to give Grants Pass a 42-41 nonconference win.
After Connelly's basket, Ashland (2-3) turned the ball over with 1.6 seconds left on a traveling violation.
Grants Pass (2-1) trailed by seven with 41/2 minutes to go.
Matt Nottingham had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavemen, and Ronnie Fields added 10 points and five rebounds.
Charlie Sebrell had 18 points for Ashland and was perfect from the field, making four 2-pointers and both 3-point attempts. Garrett Tygerson scored 11.
ASHLAND (41) — Sebrell 18, Costantino 0, Kendall 0, Tygerson 11, Amrheim 5, Resch 7. Totals: 14 11-17 41.
GRANTS PASS (42) — Nottingham 11, Connelly 6, Tardieu 2, Romick 5, Schrader 2, Fields 10, Davidson 6. Totals: 14 11-14 42.
Ashland 14 8 11 8 — 41
Grants Pass 6 13 8 15 — 42
3-point goals — Ashland 2 (Sebrell 2), Grants Pass 3 (Fields 2, Nottingham 1).