The Ashland High girls basketball team entered the 2018-19 season well aware of the two losing streaks that were on the books.
The Grizzlies snapped the first one in their first game of the year. The second one, a drought against league opposition that spanned nearly two full years, came to an end in their first game of 2019.
Ashland picked up a Midwestern League victory for the first time in nearly two years Friday night, as the Grizzlies snapped their 20-game losing streak in league play with a 46-41 win over Thurston at Mountain Avenue Gymnasium.
The Grizzlies (5-6 overall, 1-3 MWL) were able to rebound after scoring just two points in the third quarter to outscore the visiting Colts (3-9, 0-4) 18-9 in the final period to claim their first league win since Feb. 14, 2017.
“They were pretty excited,” Ashland head coach Antione Perry said. “We have to celebrate this because it’s been a long time since we got a league win. We’ve been close this year and played a lot of close games. The girls knew because we’ve been in every game this year that if we put one together we can get some wins in this league.”
Ashland sophomore wing Jayd Sollinger scored a game-high 21 points, 14 of which coming before halftime. Sollinger hit all three of the Grizzlies’ 3-pointers in the game, including a buzzer-beater to end the first half that pulled the Grizzlies within a point at 27-26.
As Perry has seen from his team much of this season, it was the second half where Ashland played some of its best basketball.
Even while the Grizzlies struggled to score in the third quarter, it was their defense that kept them in the game.
Once the fourth quarter arrived, Ashland’s offensive fortunes quickly turned for the better.
Ashland sophomore post Kendyl Abel scored seven of her 11 points in the fourth quarter, leading the way for the Grizzlies to take the lead once and for all in what was a close game with very little separation up until that point.
Defensively, Ashland limited Thurston to just 14 second-half points.
“The defense stepped up and then we turned it around,” Perry said.
Grizzlies junior point guard Nina Munson also finished in double figures, recording 12 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Sollinger, Munson and Abel — who nearly finished with a double-double with nine rebounds — accounted for all but two of the Grizzlies’ 46 points in the game.
Thurston sophomore Megan Miller scored a team-high 19 points as was the lone Colt to finish in double figures.
Ashland plays at Mazama in non-league action on Tuesday night.
“This team is interesting because they’re not getting down on themselves.” Perry said. “They know what they need to do. They settled down and, in the fourth quarter, we really ran our offense well and got some good shots. ... It was nice to get the home fans here cheering for us and allow them to see the change in our team and how we’re building for the future as well as the present.”
THURSTON (41): Carpenter 2, Williams 2, Birkby 6, Petersen 0, Miller 19, Rice 0, Norman 9, Casley 3, Kelley 0, Stevens 0. Totals: 15 8-13 41.
ASHLAND (46): Wilson 0, Sollinger 21, Barnes 0, Baldwin 0, Larson 2, Munson 12, Rodriguez 0, Abel 11. Totals: 17 9-14 46.
3-point goals — Thurston 3 (Casley 1, Birkby 2), Ashland 3 (Sollinger 3); Fouled out — Miller, Munson.
THURSTON 59, ASHLAND 44: At Ashland, Ashland was unable to hold onto its five-point halftime lead and fell to reigning state champion Thurston at Mountain Avenue Gymnasium.
Ashland (5-6, 1-3), playing without leading scorer KJ Pippa, managed just 11 second-half points after leading 33-28 at the half.
Thurston guard Isaac Lange finished with a game-high 30 points, 17 of which coming after the break to lead the comeback for the Colts (10-2, 3-1). Mason Miller added 13 points in the win.
Ashland junior Lowell Saulsbury scored all of his team-high 14 points in the opening half. Saulsbury also hit four of the Grizzlies’ seven 3-pointers in the game.
Joseph Wallner-Sentle finished with 13 points and hit a pair of treys, while Gabe Ekwall added 8.
Ashland continues its league homestand when it hosts North Bend at 5:30 p.m. next Friday night.
THURSTON (59): Casley 0, Crist 6, Muggy 2. Bryant 4, Alonzo 2, Deller 0, Beagle 0, Stranieri 2, White 0, Lange 30, Miller 13, Starck 0. Totals: 21 12-13 59.
ASHLAND (44): Smith 6, Wallner-Sentle 13, Ekwall 8, Sanford 2, Saulsbury 14, Carter 0, Desmond 4. Totals: 18 3-6 44.
3-point goals — Thurston 3 (Lange 3), Ashland 7 (Wallner-Sentle 2, Ekwall 1, Saulsbury 4).
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.