Kellems praises Grizzlies' effort

Ashland High boys basketball coach Larry Kellems already has voiced his approval of the Grizzlies' brand new gym.

Now, he's singing the praises of the team that plays on it, too.

Of course, there wasn't much for Kellems to complain about over the weekend, as the Grizzlies (5-4), shorthanded to the extreme, vanquished two opponents to capture their second Rotary Hoops Classic title in three years. The clincher came Saturday, when Ashland used a 13-3 run in the fourth quarter to break open a tight game against Henley, eventually winning 52-48 at the aforementioned Mountain Avenue Gym.

"It was a great atmosphere to start out (at the new gym)," Kellems said. "The fans were really into the game. They brought a lot of support . . . and anytime you can win a tournament, it's always nice."

It's always nice when you prove you can overcome a setback or two as well.

The Grizzlies played all weekend without senior guard Mason Costantino, who emerged as one of Ashland's top scoring options before suffering a high ankle sprain Dec. 11 at Silverton, and on Friday without senior guard Nino Foley, who was benched after missing a class.

Foley's return was key Saturday. He scored seven of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to help Ashland bury the visiting Hornets. Sophomore guard Billy Hansen also stepped up, scoring a game-high 18 points, including five 3-pointers.

Hansen's been an assassin from behind the arc for the Grizzlies, connecting on 20 treys.

"(Hansen's) a shooter and a scorer and he's going to be doing that all year long for us," Kellems said. "And when we get (Costantino) back, that's going to give us a one-two punch."

The backcourt's proficiency on the offensive end should be a running theme, added Kellems. There, Ashland's size - point guard Adam Pavlich is 6-foot-4 - will often work to the Grizzlies' advantage. It could be a different story in the post, however, since Ashland doesn't have a player taller than 6-foot-3.

"We don't have a real big, go-to guy in the paint," Kellems said, "but we have a couple 6-2 heavy bang-em-up kind of guys in Jordan Resch and Ian Kendall. Both are very strong in the paint and both are fundamentally sound. They rebound well for their size."

Ashland's three-game winning streak will be put to the test next week, when the Grizzlies travel to Bend to play in the Les Schwab Tournament. Their first tourney game is Monday against No. 2-ranked and undefeated Mountain View (7-0), which won the Intermountain Conference title last season before being shocked in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs by eventual second-place finisher Century.

At Bend, Ashland will again be forced to play at less than full strength: Costantino isn't expected back until the Grizzlies' Southern Sky Conference opener at Crater on Jan. 5, and Kendall will miss the tournament to visit family in Michigan, according to Kellems.

Of course, the Grizzlies have experience playing shorthanded and Kellems is confident that he'll get another all-out effort.

"These kids, they're warriors," he said. "They're tough and they go out and battle every game."

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