The only thing in question at the end of the Ashland-Crater Southern Sky opener? Which team lived up to its billing more, the 2-9 Comets or the seventh-ranked Grizzlies.
Ashland coach Larry Kellems couldn't answer the question, and Crater didn't have any answers all night.
Two teams headed in opposite directions stayed on course, as the Grizzlies walked away with a 61-34 dismantling of the home team competing at full strength for the first time in more than three weeks.
Ashland (8-5, 1-0 SSC) will meet Klamath Union on Friday at Mountain Avenue Gym.
Senior post Jordan Resch led the Grizzlies with 17 points, and was the beneficiary of a handful of point guard Adam Pavlich's seven first-half assists.
After exploding for 21 points against Mountain View and knocking down the game-winner against Summit a week ago, Pavlich struggled shooting the ball but finished with 10 assists to aid Billy Hansen's 14-point effort and Mason Costantino's 11-point return from an ankle injury.
"Especially with Mason back, I feel like my responsibility is to get everyone else shots and make sure we're executing within our offense," Pavlich said. "We have plenty of guys who can score, and I know if other guys are getting open looks then my shots will come."
The Grizzly defense bought time for the scoring attack to get going early, forcing four Comet turnovers in the first three minutes of the game. Pavlich's pass over the defense to find Reed Chasmar on the break for a layup put Ashland up 11-2 early.
Sophomore Justin Martin's 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter was Crater's second field goal of the frame, and the offensive struggles didn't stop there for the Comets, who mustered consecutive baskets only once throughout the course of the game.
The Grizzlies' game-opening 13-2 run was nearly matched to start the second quarter when Costantino's second 3-pointer of the half capped a 12-3 stretch to push the advantage to 27-9.
A Nino Foley long-ball from the corner gave Ashland a 33-15 halftime edge.
"I thought our offensive execution was pretty good in the first half, but any time you can hold your opponent to that score then you'll take it, especially on the road," Kellems said. "But our goal every day is to get better, and I think we got better tonight."
Hansen, a 6-foot sophomore guard, continued to thrive in a leading role even in the midst of the return of Costantino, Ashland's leading scorer. He averaged 16 over his last three outings, including a career-high 28-point outburst against Mountain View, and hit three triples on Tuesday as the only underclassman in Ashland's regular rotation. Forward Ian Kendall also returned to the starting lineup after missing last week's Summit tournament, and while the senior didn't crack the scoring column, he took three charges on defense and was regularly on the ground diving for loose balls.
"This preseason that we had gave us a lot of confidence, and I think we're starting to really buy into each other no matter what combination of guys is on the floor," Resch said. "We didn't think we were at our best tonight, but we worked hard and came out expecting to win, so this gave us a good chance to see where we're at."
Martin was the only Comet in double-digits, tallying 12 points on four triples.
Kellems expects a stiffer challenge on Friday when his team welcomes in Klamath Union, picked second in the SSC preseason coaches' poll.
"(Klamath Union) is probably the team I would have picked to win the conference back in March," Kellems said. "We know they're going to be big and athletic, but I think we'll be prepared for the challenge."
ASHLAND (61) — Chasmar 8, Costantino 11, Foley 5, Hansen 14, Hitchko 3, Pavlich 3, Resch 17. Totals: 24 7-12 61.
CRATER (34) — Bolton 2, Clark 2, Dalton 8, Douglas 1, Hicks 3, Martin 12, Reed 2, Van Hoesen 2. Totals: 13 4-9 34.
Ashland 13 20 16 12 — 61
Crater 6 9 11 8 — 34
3-point goals — Ashland 6 (Costantino 2, Foley 1, Hansen 3), Crater 4 (Martin 4). Fouled out — Costantino. Technical Fouls — Crater bench.