After a first half where his team struggled to do much right against Churchill, Ashland head coach Sam Osofsky kept it simple at halftime.
“We need to be better than this,” Osofsky told his team, which scored just 12 first-half points. “We feel like we can play with that team. We know they’re the No. 1 team in the state — and rightfully so because they’re a very talented group — but we felt like we needed to get better and had more in us than we showed.”
The simplistic approach might not have resulted in a win for Osofsky’s crew, but it at least made things interesting.
Churchill came away with the 69-56 win over the Ashland boys basketball team at Mountain Avenue Gymnasium on Friday night, but it was the Grizzlies’ second-half effort — one where they outscored the Lancers 42-31 — that had Osofsky in a much better mood than he was in the game’s opening minutes.
“We came out and we were successful in that effort,” Osofsky said, “and I’m proud of the boys for coming back and believing.”
What got Ashland (4-4 overall, 1-2 MWL) back into the game was its ability to make shots from behind the 3-point line.
Of the 10 3-pointers the Grizzlies made in the game, nine of them came in the second half, including back-to-back-to-back treys from senior point guard Joseph Wallner-Sentle.
“To this point this season, we’ve relied on it being a make-or-miss game,” Osofsky said. “We’ve had a lot of times when we’re not making then we’re not in our game. We need to make sure that whether it’s make or miss then we’re in our game. Now, when you’re point guard who’s averaging under 3 points a game makes back-to-back-to-back 3s, that’s going to be helpful.”
The Grizzlies, however, were never able to cut the game into single digits despite their hot second-half shooting.
A big reason for that was because of what the Lancers (7-0, 3-0) did in the first half.
Churchill, coming off a win over defending Class 5A state champion Thurston on Tuesday night, raced out to a double-digit lead within the first five minutes, capping a 12-0 run to open the game when junior guard Isaiah Wallace sunk a 3-pointer from the left corner.
By the time the first quarter was over, the Lancers had already built a 19-2 lead.
Come halftime, Churchill — which was ranked second in this week’s Class 5A coaches’ poll — was ahead 38-12.
“We saw film of (Churchill), we communicated our plan and when we came out, we had that look in our eyes of ‘Can we beat this team? Can we play with this team?’ and we got so worried whether we would win or lose that we forgot to play our game,” Osofsky said of the Grizzlies first-half performance. “That really hurts you when a team that’s that talented, that well-coached, that works their stuff so well, you’ve got to be sharp and focused on what you need to do to beat them and what you need to do to be successful — and we were worried about whether we could beat them or not, not playing our game.”
Wallace scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the first half to lead a balanced scoring attack. Only one other Lancer, junior wing Kaelan O’Neil (11 points), finished in double figures, but five difference Lancers scored at least seven points in the win.
Lowell Saulsbury — who had four of Ashland’s 10 3-pointers in the game — and Nate Desmond each finished with a team-high 12 points. Wallner-Sentle and Gabe Ekwall both added nine points.
Senior guard KJ Pippa, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer this season, was limited to six points after not being able to practice all week due to illness.
Ashland returns from the Christmas break with tournament play at Crescent Valley High School when it faces Central next Friday afternoon.
CHURCHILL (69): Akuma III 6, Bennion 7, Wallace 18, Morgan 7, Murphy 0, Vasbinder 0, Tofte 2, O’Neil 11, Pia 2, Goracke 9, Case 5, Carson 2. Totals: 22 18-27 69.
ASHLAND (56): Pippa 6, Wallner-Sentle 9, Ekwall 9, Hanks 2, Sanford 0, Saulsbury 12, Swenson 0, Sayre 0, Carter 6, Desmond 12, Harris 0. Totals: 21 4-7 56.
3-point goals — Churchill 7 (Bennion 1, Wallace 4, O’Neil 1, Goracke 1), Ashland 10 (Pippa 1, Wallner-Sentle 3, Ekwall 1, Saulsbury 4, Desmond 1).
CHURCHILL 67, ASHLAND 43: At Ashland, Churchill freshman guard Danika Starr scored a game-high 24 points to lead the way in the Lancers’ win over Ashland at Mountain Avenue Gymnasium.
Churchill (6-2, 3-0) — which lead 35-16 at halftime — also got 19 points from senior guard Isis Smith while sophomore post added Hope Rousseau added nine points as the Lancers picked up their third straight win to open league play.
Nina Munson and Jayd Sollinger were once again 1-2 punch offensively for Ashland (3-5, 0-3), with the former scoring a team-high 17 points and the latter adding 13.
The Grizzlies head off to tournament play at Crescent Valley next weekend, facing Willamette on Friday.
CHURCHILL (67): N. Elstone 2, Smith 19, S. Elstone 0, Miller 4, Bolden 2, Starr 24, Acker 2, Young 1, Scott 0, Husk 4, Aley 0, Rousseau 9. Totals: 28 8-9 69 .
ASHLAND (43): Altig 2, Wilson 1, Sollinger 13, Moran 0, Baldwin 0, Larson 5, Munson 17, Summers 0, Witnauer 2, Abel 3. Totals: 14 13-22 43.
3-point goals — Churchill 3 (Starr 2, Smith 1), Ashland 2 (Munson 1, Sollinger 1).
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.