New position, same production

Allison Gida has been a force of nature ever since she stepped on the basketball court for Ashland High School, but harnessing that impactful style has been her senior project to date, so to speak.

Known more for her ability to take the ball to the basket or deftly find teammates for easy buckets, the 5-foot-10 point guard has been tasked with taking on a new responsibility in the low post for her final season with the Grizzlies.

"She's our biggest and strongest player and so that just necessitates that we play her inside on defense," says Ashland head coach Tom McCracken, who warned Gida of that possibility in the offseason.

It's certainly not the most natural thing for her to do, but Gida says she's finally taking to her role as the main wall of defense in the paint.

"I miss guarding the point guards and doing the tight tough defense on them," she admits, "but I like (defending post players). It's kind of new and different. Definitely guarding a post is different than what you do, though, on the wings, but I like blocking people so I get a chance to do that now — at least that's what I try to do."

It's all essentially been a trial by fire for Gida, who had 6-3 all-state post Brenna Heater to support her the past three years but now finds herself learning what she can get away with down low.

Early results weren't exactly what McCracken or Gida had envisioned, with the Utah-bound standout struggling through foul troubles for the bulk of the nonleague schedule. She fouled out of six games in the preseason slate, including two of the three games played at the South Coast Les Schwab Tournament in Coos Bay. She still wound up being named MVP of that tourney, lending credence to exactly how talented of a player Gida is for the Grizzlies.

"It's just amazing the strength she has and the quickness she has with the basketball going to the hole," says McCracken. "Her instinctive abilities are incredible."

"If she stays out of foul trouble, we're a pretty good basketball team," adds the coach. "Losing her and having her on the bench, the other girls are definitely getting better, but it's a big difference."

That may be the understatement of the year.

Short of free throw percentage, Gida leads SSC-leading Ashland (9-5, 2-0) in every single statistical category. In spite of her occasional limited time on the court, she's averaging 17.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and five steals in her 13 games played. She's blocked 19 shots thus far and is shooting 62 percent from the field, including a 4-for-8 showing from 3-point range.

"Her stats are phenomenal," says McCracken. "She's just doing a phenomenal job for us."

Kayla Reynolds, a 5-8 junior, has stepped up to complement Gida with nine points per game as a prolific 3-point shooter, while Katie Patton is averaging seven points and five rebounds and fellow 5-10 senior Drew Van Vleck is also capable of big scoring nights.

Gida says her early season foul issues can be attributed to one simple factor: she's unwilling to back down.

"I don't like being scored on and don't want people to score on me so I just wanted to block every shot, which is not a good idea," she admits. "I was used to packing (guards) but the bigger posts are just harder to get around."

McCracken says she was also an easy target in many cases early on simply because of her sheer size, strength and athleticism.

"What kinda gets frustrating a little bit for Allison is if she just kinda breathes on somebody it's a foul and they can bang on her pretty good and not have anything called," says the coach. "She's very aggressive and is just an amazingly strong girl, and that's something most people aren't used to seeing."

McCracken has had to absorb some of that power himself, and isn't in a big hurry to try Gida many more times.

"When she bumps into you just barely, you know you've been bumped," he says. "I do some demonstrating every once in a while against her and I keep having to tell her, 'Allison, don't hurt me.'"

Gida says there isn't a practice, pregame or in-game speech that doesn't involve McCracken or someone imploring her to do everything she can to stay out of foul trouble.

"It's absolutely a point of emphasis," says McCracken. "We just emphasize that she just needs to be careful in there, that's all, because she is so strong. She can post up really strong and defensively she can put a lot of muscle into what she does."

Whether it's the officiating that has caught up to Gida or the 18-year-old has simply hit her stride playing in the paint, fouls have not been an issue since the SSC season began. She was whistled for only two fouls in a dominant effort against Crater that included 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 steals, and had only two called on her in a runaway win over Klamath Union where she played just over two quarters.

"I was really proud of myself," Gida says with a laugh of staying out of trouble. "I kinda had to hold back and I felt like I couldn't be as aggressive as I wanted to be, but sometimes you have to do that."

Holding back for Gida, mind you, meant she only had seven steals in the first quarter against the Pelicans.

"That's just unbelievable. That kinda stuff just doesn't happen," McCracken says of her playmaking abilities.

Beyond the baskets and defensive stops, McCracken says he's been even more impressed with Gida's prowess as a leader and complimentary teammate to her peers.

"There's absolutely no ego to that girl at all," he says, "and that's what makes her such a pleasure to coach."

For Gida, it's all about enjoying her time as a Grizzly as much as possible.

"I'm having so much fun this year," she says. "I'm always telling the girls that I'm so excited to go to practice and play the games. I just love hanging out with all of them."

As long as it's not on the bench during the game.

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