Ashland Basketball Teams Ready to Resume Season – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

After 24 days away, the Grizzlies can’t wait to restart the season tonight

ASHLAND — Ashland senior Gabby Heiken couldn’t help but think about it after first hearing that the Grizzlies’ basketball season had been suspended earlier this month.

“There was definitely a minute that went through my head, oh my god, I just played my last basketball game and didn’t know it,” Heiken recalled with a laugh. “I definitely had a minute of sadness and feeling if I didn’t play again.”

Over the past three weeks, Ashland’s athletes have experienced a wide range of emotions – from uncertainty about what just happened to feeling incredibly anxious after nearly a month between competitions.

There will, however, be a sense of relief tonight for the boys and girls basketball teams after their wrestling counterparts have already made their return to the mat.

After 24 days between games, the Ashland boys’ and girls’ basketball teams return to the Mountain Avenue Gymnasium court tonight for something other than practice.

The Grizzlies, who last played Jan. 4 before the Ashland School District suspended athletics due to COVID, will host a doubleheader against North Bend, resuming a Midwest League schedule on which they pressed the pause button.

The girls’ game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., followed by the boys’ game at 7 p.m. Fans, however, will not be allowed in the stands.

“Especially in my second year where I got injured and couldn’t play (due to knee surgery), it means a lot to be out there and play,” Heiken said. “It’s really nice to feel we can still play. That’s how we look at it. The game (tonight) is without fans, but we can play.

The pause, which was announced Jan. 10 by the Ashland School District, came following Ashland High’s shift to remote learning due to rising COVID-19 numbers among staff. and the students.

It wasn’t until early last week, January 17, that Ashland’s basketball teams were able to return to practice.

“It’s been a weird time,” Ashland boys’ basketball coach Sam Osofsky said. “Our goal has been, clearly more than ever, health. It’s really taken all of our focus as a coaching staff and as a team to make sure we have good practice and make sure we’re improving every day. It’s really hard to do in mid-January and when you’re (three weeks) between games.

The Grizzlies were scheduled to face Churchill in Eugene on Jan. 7 — the Friday before the break took effect — but the Lancers were forced to postpone due to their own COVID-19 protocols.

Although there have been other games postponed in the Midwest League, Ashland is the only school to take an extended break this season.

While there are no fans in the stands tonight, it’s something that will be revisited next week when in-person learning resumes at Ashland High.

Either way, the Grizzlies are ready for basketball again.

And they also go to court knowing that the games that had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 break have all been rescheduled.

“It was tough, but it was understandable with everything,” Ashland girls’ basketball coach Antione Perry said. “The girls stayed positive and tried to make the best of the situation.”

“We practiced, but it was very difficult not to play,” added Perry. “It’s almost like the start of the season again. We had two full weeks in November where we trained as well, and it showed in our first game. We were fresh and able to run up and down, but our shots were missing and you just can’t get that game speed no matter how hard you try.

As one can imagine, the focus has been on maintaining health so teams can try to complete the 2021-22 season. Alongside the following protocols currently in place, players wearing masks have once again been a constant feature of practices – a sight reminiscent of when the COVID-impacted spring season took place.

Without the ability to play real games, keeping players in near-game shape has been the biggest focus other than keeping them virus-free.

Osofsky and Perry said they tried to make things as fun as possible, even though it was workouts in an empty gym that didn’t allow for the typical ambient noise and energy that a crowd can create.

“As a coach, you can’t fully replicate game situations and that feeling of being in a match,” Osofsky said, “but we always try to train at a high level so that we’re ready for a game. We were able to organize several scrums with our coaches as officials to try and recreate those situations, but as a group we feel prepared and focused and ready for this challenge. We feel like the boys are ready to go play games more than ever and maybe they are enjoying it more than ever.

Going into the break, both head coaches were happy with how their teams fared, even though their Jan. 4 games against Crater were losses.

The Ashland boys, still hoping to make some noise in the MWL, go into tonight’s game against North Bend 4-5 on aggregate and 1-1 in the league.

“We felt like with our 4-5 record we were a better team and it shows,” Osofsky said. “All credit goes to the teams that beat us, but we felt like we had a very tough schedule planned, and I think that shows in our rankings (OSAA power) which hovers around the top 10. The teams we’ve faced, we feel like has really helped us prepare for the upcoming league schedule.

Victories weren’t as easy as they were for the Ashland girls, who started the season 1-8 and lost their first two league games. Although some of the losses didn’t look pretty, Perry felt like things were moving forward and his team was on an upward trajectory when the season was cut short.

“I felt really good,” Perry said of his team’s progress. “We knew it was going to be a challenge this year just with the change we’ve had, but the girls were positive with each other, they were working really hard together and really starting to play together. We knew we had to. because we didn’t have that Jayd Sollinger player like last year who could just go out and score.

The challenge for both teams now is to get back into shape quickly with an amplified schedule which now features three games a week until the end of February.

Although they may be busier than usual, this certainly beats the alternative.

“That’s what we have to do – for us it’s about playing games,” Heiken said. “The season only lasts three months, so really going almost a month without playing (a game) is crazy to think about. It’s not unusual for what we’ve been through for the past two years where we haven’t played at games, so we all expect to do things that are not normal. Last year we played two games in one week, so it seems almost normal that we do several games in one week.

Contact reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Ashland senior Gabby Heiken prepares for a shot during the Grizzlies’ game January 4 against Crater at Mountain Avenue Gymnasium.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland senior Hawthorn Lapierre, centre, shoots between two South Medford defenders during a match December 1 at Medford.

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