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Ashland struggled against Marist's quick-change defense, but leaned on its own tight 'D' plus some clutch free throw shooting to advance to the Les Schwab South Coast Tournament finals.
The No. 6-ranked Grizzlies limited the Spartans to just 12 first-half points and hit 10 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter in a 44-39 win Friday. Ashland's 10th straight victory since its 0-2 start earned the Grizzlies a championship date with Grants Pass.
"Our execution wasn't that great and we were a little sluggish in the first half, but we played very hard in the second half," Ashland head coach Steve Farley said. "The girls just continued to play, never hung their heads, and that's a good win against a scrappy team."
Chelsey McKinnis led a balanced Grizzly effort with 11 points, two assists and two steals while Brenna Heater added nine points, 10 rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Natalie Del Carlo also came up big with eight points and four rebounds.
Marist was led by Marshall King's game-high 20 points.
The Spartans stayed in the game by limiting Heater, who entered the game on a tear.
"What really hurt us is that they would double (Heater) sometimes and sometimes not, and we did a poor job of reading that," Farley said. "And then they pressured us and forced us into a few turnovers. They are just one of those teams that are very physical and that kind of threw us off a little bit."
For the second time in as many nights Ashland needed a fourth-quarter comeback to pull away. This time, Ashland trailed by two points with about five minutes to go before burying the Spartans. Once again, the Grizzlies leaned heavily on their defense, which held an opponent below 40 points for the eighth time during the current win streak.
The Ashland-Grants Pass game, which is set to tipoff at 3:30 p.m., will be a rematch. The Grizzlies handed the Lady Cavers a 46-37 loss back on Dec. 8 in Grants Pass.
The Lady Cavers advanced to the championship round with a 50-48 victory over Marshfield. The game will be broadcast live in Ashland at 101.9-FM.
ASHLAND (44) &
Kelsey McKinnis 11, Brenna Heater 9, Natalie Del Caro 8, Alison Gida 7, Heidi Seibenlist 5, Rachel Pavlich 2, Koko Petitt 2.
MARIST (39) &
Marshall King 20, Allie Rodgers 6, Macky Dennis 5, Kate Wilkins 4, Emily Hacker 2, Amanda Hagstrom 2, Lydia Gust, Kayla Reay.
Grizzlies win, earn Les Schwab title tilt vs. Grants Pass
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