Grizzlies dethrone Wolverines

EUGENE — The Ashland Grizzlies desperately needed their do-it-all point guard to shine when it mattered most.

Then, in a twist few could have expected, Allison Gida desperately needed her teammates to do the same, or watch their championship hopes go up in flames.

"At the half, I told them, 'If the calls don't go your way, are you going to lay down and die or are you going to suck it up and play through it?'" Ashland head coach Tom McCracken said. "And they said, 'We're going to suck it up and play through it.' And that's just exactly what we did."

Callie McCoy and Drew Van Vleck combined for 21 points in the second half as third-ranked Ashland used a clutch 7-0 run in the fourth quarter to knock off defending state champion Willamette, 45-40, on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state girls basketball tournament at McArthur Court.

Gida scored each of Ashland's 16 points in the first half, but was held to two points on a pair of free throws after the break before fouling out late. No matter. Van Vleck nailed three 3-pointers, including the one that gave Ashland the lead for good, and McCoy went 10-for-10 from the free throw line, as the Grizzlies (23-5) rallied back from a six-point halftime deficit to reach the state semis for the second year in a row.

Ashland will face second-ranked Wilsonville (22-4), a 43-32 winner over Hermiston, Friday afternoon for a spot in the finals. Fourth-ranked Willamette (20-5) will face Hermiston (17-6) in this morning's consolation semis.

"We came together as a team," said McCoy, who sprained the index finger on her shooting hand Tuesday but still sank six free throws in the final minute to help squelch Willamette's last-gasp rally. "In the first half we kind of relied on (Gida) to get our scoring done. They started to put a lot of pressure on her so we had to have some other players step up.

"We never had a doubt that we could play with them, could beat them. We just were disappointed in the way we played in the first half. So we took that and kind of used our frustration to help build us up, and we came out with confidence."

Ashland's ability to overcome a rare scoring drought by Gida didn't surprise McCracken, who opted to leave Gida in the game after she picked up her fourth foul midway through the third quarter.

"The girls stepped up in the second half like I knew they could, because we're not a one-man team," he said.

The Grizzlies proved that in the fourth quarter.

With Willamette's defense clamping down on Gida, Van Vleck swished a 3 to put Ashland ahead 35-32 with 4:37 to go. The next three minutes were a defensive slugfest, with Gida adding two points to the Grizzlies' lead at the free throw line. Two more free throws by Ashland's Katie Patton at the 1:08 mark completed the Grizzlies' game-changing rally and gave them a 39-32 cushion.

That margin suddenly looked slim after Gida fouled out with 55 seconds to go, but McCoy buckled down at the line and Ashland escaped with its 16th win in a row.

"I was so nervous," Gida said of watching the last minute of the game from the bench. "I wasn't even watching the free throws. I was just praying, hoping that we'd make those free throws and come out with a good win."

Gida finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, six steals and three assists while playing 31 of a possible 32 minutes. Van Vleck, who played the entire game, had 11 points and three rebounds, and McCoy added 10 points and three boards.

Willamette, which started five freshmen, was led by Tori Wilkinson, who had eight points and nine rebounds. Megan Winther added nine points, but was just 1-for-6 at the line, while Tori Mahaffie led the Wolverines with 11 boards before fouling out.

Fouls became a running theme, with Gida picking up her second personal less than four minutes into the game. The two teams combined to commit 48 fouls, which led to 57 free throw attempts.

For McCracken, leaving Gida in the game after she picked up her fourth was an easy decision.

"Are you kidding me? Are you absolutely kidding me?" McCracken said, when asked if he considered benching Gida. "We're at the stage now where it's up to her to know what she can do and how she has to do it."

She seemed to know exactly what to do in the first quarter, scoring 14 points, including a jumper just before the buzzer to put Ashland ahead 14-7.

The second quarter was a disaster for Ashland. The Grizzlies scored just two points on a pair of free throws by Gida with 1:41 to go. Before that, they missed six field goal attempts, four free throw attempts and turned the ball over five times.

Willamette took its first lead since early in the first quarter, 15-14, on Shoniece Robertson's driving layup with 3:22 to go in the half. That was part of a 14-0 run that pushed the Wolverines' lead to 21-14.

Gida finally put an end to Ashland's slump at the free throw line, but Willamette quickly answered and led 22-16 at the break.

"We did some things that a lot of teams I don't think have done against (Ashland), but experience really kind of showed up in the second half," Willamette coach Paul Brothers said. "I'm disappointed, of course, because you never want to lose, but I believe our kids will come back (this) morning and play their butts off."

WILLAMETTE (40) — Winther 1-6 7-9 9; Robertson 3-6 2-4 8; Wilkinson 2-3 3-4 8; Glassow 2-6 2-4 6; Mahaffie 2-4 0-2 4; Wright 1-2 0-0 2; Worthen 1-5 0-0 2; Harper 0-0 1-2 1; Josh 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 12-32 15-25 40.

ASHLAND (45) — Gida 6-14 6-11 18; Van Vleck 3-10 2-2 11; McCoy 0-3 10-10 10; Patton 2-6 2-5 6; Reynolds 0-2 0-0 0; Sturges 0-3 0-0 0; Shulenberger 0-0 0-4 0. Totals: 11-38 20-32 45.

Willamette ................................. 7 15 9 9 — 40

Ashland .................................. 14 2 14 15 — 45

3-point goals — Willamette 1-5 (Wilkinson 1-1), Ashland 3-11 (Van Vleck 3-7). Fouled out — Mahaffie, Gida, Sturges. Rebounds — Willamette 33 (Mahaffie 11), Ashland 24 (Gida 8). Assists — Willamette 4 (Robertson 2), Ashland 8 (Sturges 3; Gida 3). Total fouls — Willamette 26, Ashland 22.

Qwest Players of the Game: Gida (Ashland), Winther (Willamette).

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