Marist in the zone, routs Grizzlies in 5A play-in

ASHLAND — Ashland's zone defense flustered Marist in the first meeting between the two teams and helped the Grizzlies muscle their way to a 10-point win.

This time, the Spartans were ready.

"The word got out that we weren't a good zone team," Marist coach Nate Waldron said, "so we had to improve."

They did, torching Ashland for 36 points in a second-half runaway that allowed the Spartans to enjoy the best revenge possible, a 55-40 victory in the play-in round of the OSAA Class 5A state playoffs on Friday.

Speedy point guard Willy Malos scored eight of his game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and Marist out-zoned the Grizzlies late to advance to the round of 16 with a gritty, foul-plagued road win at Mountain Avenue Gym.

The Spartans (8-17), the fifth-place team from the Midwestern League, hit 14 of 17 free throws in the fourth quarter and 19 of 25 in the game to bury the Grizzlies (11-13).

"I thought we could handle their zone better than we did, but we struggled with it," Ashland head coach Larry Kellems said. "We had a lot of turnovers going down the stretch, and we just couldn't get the ball into the right hands to get people shots when we needed them."

Junior guard Billy Hansen, facing double coverage on every drive, scored 15 points to lead the Grizzlies, while senior post Talen Heater added 13, including seven in the fourth quarter.

Malos' fallaway jumper at the third-quarter buzzer capped a five-point run and gave Marist a 37-29 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Heater scored Ashland's next five points, and his putback trimmed the lead to four, 38-34, with 4:55 to go.

The Spartans kept scoring, though, and mostly from the charity stripe. Over the next four minutes Marist put the game away with a 14-4 run, including the probable clincher courtesy of Malos, who stole Jonathan Mills' pass then sailed in for a layup while being fouled. His free throw gave the Spartans a 48-38 lead with two minutes to go.

The play was a fitting nail in the coffin for Marist, which seemed to rattle Ashland in the second half with a scrambling zone defense that swarmed to Hansen and closed passing lanes.

"We knew Billy Hansen was a stud, a straight-up stud," Waldron said. "I told the kids all week, I thought he was the best shooter in the state at our level. We knew what kind of player he was and our game plan was really to do whatever we could to slow him down."

Ashland senior post Neil Presicci said the Grizzlies couldn't get into a rhythm on offense.

"The execution just wasn't there," he said. "We haven't played a team that ran a zone the whole game yet this season. I think that's just mentally taxing. It's not that we weren't capable of beating it, but just trying to be something new every time down the court gets to you."

"They did a good job on defense — we really couldn't get anything going," Hansen added.

The Grizzlies got the start they wanted, getting six points from Hansen to take a 12-10 lead into the second quarter. They increased it to 16-10 early in the second, but Hansen was held scoreless the rest of the half and Marist junior wing Josh Paiement, who was primarily responsible for guarding Hansen, scored six of Marist's nine points to help the Spartans take a 19-18 lead into the break.

"Halfway through that second quarter we really had a chance to take control of that game and blow it open," Kellems said. "Then we had four turnovers in a row and we stopped rebounding "… and the tide kind of turned at that point."

MARIST (55) — Malos 17, Krier 8, Miller 6, Holaday 3, Paiement 10, Harper 11, Krause 0, Wagner 0. Totals: 17 19-25 55.

ASHLAND (40) — Mills 2, Heater 13, Hansen 15, Hitchko 0, Presicci 0, Schlecht 0, McCoy 6, Good 4. Totals: 15 9-12 40.

Marist 10 9 18 18 — 55

Ashland 12 6 11 11 — 40

3-point goals — Marist 2 (Malos 1, Paiement 1), Ashland 1 (Hansen 1).

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