Grizz get lost in trees

EUGENE — Still wiping the tears from her eyes 30 minutes after Ashland's first loss since December, Drew Van Vleck could only shake her head and smile when asked what it would have taken for Ashland to beat Wilsonville.

"Maybe if we were like all a foot taller," she said.

It was an exaggeration. Probably.

The second-ranked Wilsonville Wildcats bullied and finally buried the third-ranked Ashland Grizzlies on Friday, riding a considerable height advantage to a 55-39 victory in the semifinals of the Class 5A girls basketball tournament at McArthur Court.

Wilsonville, which has two 6-footers in its starting lineup, outrebounded Ashland 27-22, outscored the Grizzlies 18-1 at the free throw line and held the Southern Sky Conference champions to 15 field goals, with eight from 3-point land. It all added up to another dominating victory for the Wildcats (23-4), who have won 19 games in a row, including their last nine by double digits.

"It's our advantage in every game," said Wilsonville coach Cindy Anderson, who led the Wildcats to back-to-back state titles in 2001-02. "It's hard to be bigger than us. That was our game plan. . . . People say, 'Why do you keep going inside.' Well, why wouldn't I."

Wilsonville will face top-ranked Jefferson tonight in the 5A championship game. Ashland (23-6) falls into the third-place game, where it will seek the highest-place in team history. If the Grizzlies beat SSC rival Crater this afternoon for the fifth time this season, they will place third, besting their fifth-place finishes of 2009 and 2006.

"It's hard losing when you're not used to it," said Ashland head coach Tom McCracken, whose team had its 16-game winning streak snapped. "We haven't lost since (Dec. 30). Now, we've got to regroup, come out and change things tomorrow."

Wilsonville's frontline did most of the damage. Six-foot-3 senior post Ashley Walters had 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks to pick up Qwest player of the game honors, while 6-foot-1 forward Kellie Krueger had 16 points, seven rebounds and one block. The two combined to hit 10 of 15 shots, most of those at point-blank range.

"I'm just so glad they're on my team," Anderson said.

Allison Gida, Drew Van Vleck and Kayla Reynolds combined to score all but five of Ashland's point, with Gida, the other Qwest player of the game, going for 13. Van Vleck (12 points) and Reynolds (nine) teamed up to hit seven 3-pointers.

The Grizzlies hit 8 of 21 3-pointers for the game, but were 7-for-23 on shots inside the arc against a Wilsonville interior defense that proved to be too tough, too tall.

Gida also had nine rebounds, three assists and three steals, but turned the ball over six times. That was a problem for the whole team — the Grizzlies turned the ball over 15 times.

"She had spurts, but (Gida) did not have her best game, and she knows it and I know it," McCracken said of the SSC player of the year, who's headed to the University of Utah on a basketball scholarship. "She had spurts where she was very good, and she had spurts where she turned it over a few times. But, we put a lot of pressure on her and ask a lot out of her, and she delivers a lot of times.

"The bottom line is, we needed to play the best that we could and it didn't happen. It doesn't take away what kind of year we had, it doesn't take away how classy of an act these girls are — which they're a really classy act. Now we've got to see what we're made out of (today)."

Down 12 at the half, Ashland outscored Wilsonville 12-4 to cut a 29-17 deficit to 33-29. Reynolds nailed two 3-pointers during the spurt, and Gida capped the run with back-to-back driving layups.

Wilsonville's next possession was a back-breaker. The Wildcats' Megan Arnoldy, the Northwest Oregon Conference player of the year who was held to five points and two rebounds, missed a layup, but Walters pulled down the rebound and the Wildcats reloaded. A few passes later Arnoldy found herself open in the corner and swished a 3 to push the lead back up to seven. The basket kicked off a 10-4 burst that allowed the Wildcats to extend their lead to nine points early in the fourth.

Another Van Vleck 3 cut the lead to six with 7:16 to go in the game, but Wilsonville outscored Ashland 8-2 over the next four minutes to put the Grizzlies away. Walters scored five of those points, as the Wildcats took advantage of four critical Ashland turnovers.

Desperate and unable to find any space inside, Ashland was held to two points — a Gida layup — over the last seven minutes of the game.

"They were just good all around," Gida said of Wilsonville, which outscores opponents by an average of 15 points per game. "They had the height, they had the dribble, they had the shot, they had everything. And we didn't play our best."

Wilsonville started to take control in the second quarter. After Callie McCoy's 3 to cut the deficit to 19-17, the Wildcats reeled off 10 straight points by four different players to take a comfortable 12-point lead into the break.

It took a while, but eventually Wilsonville's inside muscle trumped Ashland's outside shooting. The Wildcats hit 11 of 16 field goals in the first half, most in the paint, while the Grizzlies were 6 of 20, including 4 of 10 on 3-pointers.

Two days after giving the Grizzlies a much-needed shot in the arm against Willamette, Van Vleck was at it again. The senior guard hit three 3-pointers in the first half to lead the Grizzlies with nine points.

Wilsonville had success attacking Ashland's press, especially near the end of the half. The Wildcats converted three layups in the last 2 1/2; minutes, including one on Kelsie Lang's three-point play that pushed the lead to 28-17.

Wilsonville will be going for its third state title after failing to advance to the final site last season. The Wildcats placed third in 2008.

"So amazing," said Walters, a first-team all-NWOC selection. "We've been thinking about it all season. It's been our dream, and just looking up at the clock right before it hit zero was a huge rush of adrenaline. I was like, 'Yeah, championship game, here we come.'"

ASHLAND (39) — Gida 6-15 1-3 13; Van Vleck 4-10 0-0 12; Reynolds 3-7 0-0 9; McCoy 1-5 0-0 3; Patton 1-3 0-0 2; Michiels 0-0 0-0 0; Pavlich 0-0 0-0 0; Kasiah 0-0 0-0 0; Minor 0-0 0-0 0; Sturges 0-4 0-0 0; Shulenberger 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-44 1-3 39.

WILSONVILLE (55) — Krueger 4-7 8-11 16; Walters 6-8 3-5 15; Dungey 1-2 3-8 5; Arnoldy 2-3 0-0 5; Clark 1-2 2-2 4; Lang 1-1 2-3 4; Gearhart 2-4 0-0 4; M. Bullock 1-1 0-0 2; Riewald 0-1 0-0 0; L. Bullock 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 18-30 18-29 55.

Ashland 11 6 17 5 — 39

Wilsonville 9 20 13 13 — 55

3-point goals — Ashland 8-21 (Van Vleck 4-8; Reynolds 3-6; McCoy 1-3), Wilsonville 1-2 (Arnoldy 1-1). Fouled out — Reynolds. Rebounds — Ashland 22 (Gida 9), Wilsonville 27 (Walters 8). Assists — ASHLAND 8 (Gida 3; McCoy 3), Wilsonville 12 (Gearhart 3). Total fouls — Ashland 20, Wilsonville 9.

QWEST PLAYERS OF THE GAME: Walters (Wilsonville), Van Vleck (Ashland)

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