By Vern Hee
Ashley Gray tore through the Pahranagat Valley Panther offense on Saturday. She was on fire.
The junior post for the Tonopah girls basketball team compiled 16 rebounds in a fabulous defensive effort. Nonetheless, her team came up short.
Gray’s Lady Muckers tried to come back from a 13-point deficit at the half in the Division IV finals.
The team came close and closed the gap to within three points, when the buzzer sounded at the end of the fourth quarter.
Gray felt disappointed, but undeterred. She strongly believes her team can triumph against their next opponent, the Eureka Vandals.
Gray is a huge inside force for the Muckers. Eureka knows to beat the Muckers they will have to neutralize Gray inside and beat her to the boards.
For Gray, it will be an uphill battle. Just two games stand between her and the team’s season goal of winning the state title.
Yesterday the team practiced in Tonopah. Gray said they had a hard time getting back in sync after the loss on Saturday. The loss weighed heavily on the team. Her team has just three more practices to get the loss behind them.
The Muckers know the Eureka Vandals well. This season they have not beaten them.
Gray and the Muckers lost to Eureka at a tournament in Wells and played the team a second time later, when they lost 40-31. In that game, Gray was the second lead scorer for her team with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Gray still firmly believes in her heart they can beat that team.
“Eureka is very quick and they play well as a team. We need to move around more so when we get the ball there is someone to pass to. They are a little taller than Alamo and they are a pretty good outside shooting team. They are dead-on when they shoot and they rarely miss and if they miss, they get the rebound because they crash the boards most of the time.”
Gray expects her team will switch it up. Ed Cobb, head coach, has already told them they will have a new look for the Vandals come Friday. She has every confidence the team will get it together for game-day.
“We are actually pretty good when we play four strong quarters and don’t let the refs get in our heads. We need to play our game. If a person has a bad game we know that others need to step up.”
The junior spoke about her role on the team. Next to Deanna Vanpoucke, the lead scorer on the team, Gray is a leader in rebounding this year and scoring for the team. Most likely with the departure of Vanpoucke at the end of the year, she will be the dominate force on the team for next year.
Gray, at 5′ 9″ with a sturdy build, said next year the team will be depending on her to step it up and fill Vanpoucke’s shoes.
“It is kind of scary, Deanna is very good. She is our go-to person now and next year it is going to be me. So it is nerve-wracking. I have to get better,” she said.
The young player loves basketball and has played the game since she was in fifth grade. As a freshman, she once dreamed of going to the University of Connecticut to play where her idol, WNBA star Maya Moore, once played. In her off time, when she is not working, she can be found at the local park playing a game of hoops.
“I love fighting for the rebound. I like being strong and aggressive inside because I usually can’t be called for that,” she said.
Although she probably will not play college ball, Gray wants to stay close to the sport she loves and other sports by studying sports medicine in college.
At school, she is a solid force on the court and off, receiving mostly A’s and B’s in her academics.
Gray is a three sport athlete and in addition to volleyball and basketball, she runs track.
Gray should have her best game ever against the Vandals on Friday.