It was only the home-opener, but the Ashland High boys basketball team's heartbreaking 38-36 loss to Phoenix Friday night inspried a little soul-searching on the Grizziles' part.

The team held a 25-minute players-only meeting after the defensive battle to try to figure out what they are missing.

Senior center Matt Lipski said the team needed the meeting to do some venting and try to move past the painful loss and get the squad headed on the right track.

"It definitely raises some question marks about our team," Lipski said. "We've got to see where we're at and what kind of things we can do to improve. I'm not worried. I think its just a place where we can build from."

The loss dropped the Grizzlies to 1-5, while the Pirates improved to 3-1.

The game was tight from wire to wire, with both teams struggling for every basket. Ashland's six-point lead early in the third quarter was the largest lead of the game for either squad.

Phoenix stayed in the game early with free throws, scoring half of its eight first-quarter points from the stripe. Lipski, standing 6-foot-9, had his way in the paint early for the Grizzlies, but Phoenix began denying him the ball from the second quarter on. Lipski still managed to lead all scorers on the night with eleven points to go with seven rebounds.

The teams slowly traded baskets throughout most of the second quarter and Ashland went into halftime with a 24-20 lead. Phoenix senior Mike Shepherd (6-foot-5) held his own with Lipski, pulling down eight rebounds in the first half while netting five points.

Ashland held the Pirates scoreless for the first half of the third quarter, but Phoenix senior Codey Barrett stepped up to carry the offensive load. He scored six of Phoenix's 10 third quarter points and the Pirates took a 30-29 lead into the final stanza.

The defense tightened even more in the fourth quarter, as the teams combined for a single point in the first 5:45 of the quarter. A beautiful dish from Lipski to junior Garrett Tygerson for an easy lay-up tied the game at 32 with just over a minute left.

With the crowd in a tizzy, Shepherd sealed the Grizzlies fate, scoring five points in the final 50 seconds.

Lipski thinks the team can take a positive from the loss with the experience of playing in such a tense atmosphere so early in the season.

"You don't expect to be playing those games and I don't know if we were ready for it," Lipski said. "But it was exciting to play at the end there, trading buckets and just a close finish. That was good for us I think."

Ashland head coach Larry Kellems believes in his team's tenacious defense, and is just waiting for shots to drop on the offensive end.

"Thirty-six points is not going to win ball games for us," Kellems said, "so we've got to start knocking down our shots and figure out how we're going to do that."

Shepherd led the Pirates with a double-double, 10 points and 12 rebounds. Phoenix senior guard Andrew George grabbed seven rebounds while scoring four points and leading the Pirates with three assists.

Senior Austin Raymond led Ashland in rebounding with eight boards, while Lipski and junior Charlie Sebrell each had seven. Senior Jayson Wilson scored eight while Tygerson added six points. The Grizzlies spread the assists around, with senior Cameron Clement leading the bunch with three dishes.

Ashland will need to bounce back from the demoralizing loss quickly as they host Henley on Saturday night. The Grizzlies opened their season with a 56-46 loss to Henley without the services of Lipski or Sebrell.

"We think we're probably equal with (Henley)," Kellems said. "They're a very competitive team with Phoenix, so I think we're going to be battling it out again tomorrow night."

Women's Basketball

At Klamath Falls, Southern Oregon defeated Willamette University in Game — of the Oregon Tech Classic 68-59 at Danny Miles Court Friday night.

The Raiders (5-2) held a 30-22 halftime lead despite shooting only 29 percent, making 10 of 34 shots.

A 13-2 run to start the second half put the Raiders up by 24 with ten minutes remaining.

Jacki Speer paced the Raiders with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Rhiannon Dickison added 15 points. SOU shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half.

Willamette's Molly Fillion amassed 24 points and 17 boards.

SOU will meet Kwantlen University of Surrey BC in Game — of the Oregon Tech Classic at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, while Willamette (2-6) plays host Oregon Tech in Game 2 starting at 5:30 p.m.