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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Paynes to enjoy last regular season game together Friday night at home

Thursday, February 7, 2002

Most parents of players on the Alta High School girls basketball team only get to see their daughters dribble the ball or grab for rebounds whenever the Cyclones face opponents such as Aurelia, Newell-Fonda and Albert City-Truesdale in scheduled contests on Tuesday or Friday nights.

Head coach Rory Payne gets to see his daughter do those things everyday in practice.

Rory, the father of Ashlea, will see his eldest daughter play in her final regular season game tomorrow night at home against St. Mary's, which will be the end of an experience for both which has lasted ever since Ashlea stepped onto the court as a member of the Cyclone basketball team four years ago.

The situation is a unique opportunity for the father and daughter to share an extra few hours together each day, and both said the experience has been a good one for them.

"Between her and me it's been great," Rory said. "It's time that most parents don't get to spend with their teenage daughters, and for two hours every day I get to do that on the court. It's been a great experience."

"It's gotten a lot better over the years, and it's fun now," Ashlea said. "Neither one of us really knew how to handle the father-daughter thing during my freshman year, so it was a little tough that year, but everything is great now."

A starter for three years, Ashlea also came off the bench for the varsity squad during her freshman year, and her dad said that he has seen tremendous improvement from Ashlea over the four years he has coached her.

"She's really grown on the court," Rory said. "It seems as though everything has slowed down for her and she sees things now that she wouldn't have seen before. Her basketball knowledge and understanding of the offense is such that she could step in and play nearly every position for us now, and that's been great to see."

That growth has allowed the coach's daughter to accumulate some of the best numbers ever posted by an Alta Cyclone five-on-five player.

Payne, who has 915 career points, only trails Susie Ciechanowski, the all-time five-player scoring leader at AHS, by 45 points, and is near the top of the list in career rebounds (734), assists (320) and steals (242).

In her senior season, Ashlea is leading the team in scoring with 18.8 ponts per game, 13th-best in Class 1A, is 11th-best in the entire state of Iowa with 5.50 steals per contest and is in the top 50 in Class 1A in assists, averaging 3.63 per game.

Then, there is rebounding.

One of the shorter players on the team, Ashlea stands tall in the Hawkeye State when it comes to crashing the boards.

Through Thursday, she was second in the entire state of Iowa in rebounding, averaging 15.38 boards per game. The only player she trails is Gillian Goring of Class 4A power Waterloo West, who is averaging 17 rebounds per contest.

The only catch, however, is size. Goring is 6'7" tall. Payne is 5'4" tall. The difference is staggering, both in terms of the huge disparity in height between the two and the narrow gap in rebounding average.

With a 25-inch vertical leap, Ashlea has always been a good rebounder, but Rory said she has been the chairwoman of the boards for two other reasons: anticipation and desire.

"She anticipates extremely well, and she just doesn't go after the ones that come to her, but she goes after the ones that are away from her as well," Rory said. "It's really amazing to see. Of all the people I've coached, I don't know if I've ever coached someone quite like her, because she has the attitude that every ball is hers, and she's going to go get it."

"Getting good position is a lot of it," Ashlea said. "I'm just determined and I want to go get it, and I don't give up until I do, I guess.

"A lot of people see my height as 5'4" and ask me if it's true that I'm getting that many rebounds," Ashlea continued. "They're not sure if they read it right or if my height was wrong or something, but it's true. I'm very competitive and don't want to ever not get something, and that's what it's like with rebounding. I want to get the ball."

Ashlea, who is looking to play college basketball somewhere in the Iowa Conference next season, has compiled the large numbers her senior year while playing through an equally large amount of pain, as she will have major reconstructive surgery on her left ankle as soon as the season is over.

The injury first occurred in a district volleyball game her junior year, and while she played basketball, she was forced to miss both track and softball.

The school record-holder in the 400-meter hurdles, Ashlea said it was extremely tough not being able to compete in both sports last year, and said the experience made her grateful to be able to participate in volleyball and basketball this year.

"That (experience) was really hard at first, because knowing that I couldn't do it made me want to do it even more," Ashlea said. "It was really frustrating, and not knowing what was going to happen next was even more frustrating. It was touch and go for a while, but luckily it worked out for the best."

While it may not seem like something that would bring them together, the left ankle that will keep Ashlea out of track again this spring has been another way for the father and daughter to connect during this year.

Just before practice, Ashlea sits near the bleachers on the far side of the court every day, waiting for the ankle to be taped by her dad, her coach. While others drift in and talk about their relationships or what they will wear on game day, the daughter will relax while her father carefully tapes up her ankle, one strip of white adhesive at a time.

Over, around and back again for five minutes, and then the ankle is ready to go, ready to be protected from whatever harm might come its way for the next 90 minutes of practice.

The moment may be short, and it may be nothing more than a taping job, but in the eyes of both, it is significant. For it's another moment that the father and the daughter get to share together each and every day, and that alone makes it special.

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