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PENZA: These Grizzlies are showing improvement

In a world nowadays that seemingly demands instant gratification at every turn, sometimes the word “rebuild” isn’t necessarily something that is going to be embraced wholeheartedly.

When it comes to the Ashland High girls basketball team, though, it most definitely is.

And it’s starting to show for the better.

Coming off a 0-for-the-season finish in Midwestern League play a year ago, Ashland head coach Antione Perry made it well known that this season was going to be the start of the rebuild, one that would hopefully see the Grizzlies end two losing streaks that they were well aware of.

Sitting here in the middle of January, with 11 regular-season games to go, both of those losing streaks — one overall having lost their last 14 games of the 2017-18 season, the other in MWL play that dated back to 2017 — the Grizzlies are a much-improved product than they were a year ago.

Ashland (5-7 overall, 1-4 MWL) may just have one league win to its name so far this season, but let’s just go ahead and get to the huge difference between then and now out of the way now.

It’s just how competitive the Grizzlies are to this year compared to last.

Chew on this: Ashland lost its 14 MWL games by an average of 30.3 points per game last season.

Only three of the Grizzlies 14 league games were decided by fewer than 20 points.

It was a struggle. A massive one, obviously.

This season, it’s a different story.

In Ashland’s first five league games, four of them have been decided by single digits. Taking out its 24-point loss right before Christmas to a very, very good Churchill team that is one of the best in Class 5A these days, Ashland’s three losses have been decided by a total of 14 points — combined.

Would Perry like a few more wins under his team’s belt?

Well, yeah. It’s impossible for a coach not to win more often than not.

But this isn’t a snap-your-fingers-and-expect-wins kind of deal.

Perry is all about perspective these days, and that’s one of the biggest messages he’s delivered to his team this season. He knows they’re young — there’s all of two seniors on this year’s team — and realizes that with all the youth will come plenty of learning opportunities and development needed to win consistently at the varsity level.

If anything, though, this season has shown that Perry has a core group of players to build around going forward.

And knowing there’s a common theme of youth whenever you’re looking up and down the Grizzlies’ roster, the fact that most of those names will be around for at least another year has to be a nice feeling knowing how this season has progressed so far.

With over half of the MWL schedule to be played, the objective now is to get more than just one singular league win. That’s a positive development for a team that went nearly two full years without winning one league game.

And as they’ve shown so far, even in defeat, they’re competitive.

That’s the kind of progress that their head coach can see — and is more than happy to acknowledge.

Perry wanted to lay a groundwork for future season, and thus far that has been accomplished.

And for a team that has been told about the process that’s needed, embraced said process and has now seen the first parts of it play out, that can go a long way to truly getting things back on track.

Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.

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