Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

March 11, 2014

AARON SNYDER: Truth or Dare unkind to ’Cats

MOREHEAD — Ashland was left feeling like the shy kid after an intense game of Truth or Dare.

Truth: Fleming County outrebounded Ashland, 39-24, after Ashland outdueled Greenup County by 10 the night before.

Truth: Top-notch junior Nick Miller didn’t score until the 4:26 mark of the fourth quarter.

Truth: The Tomcats were whistled for six fouls in the first period, including two by Miller and two by Steven Friley.

Dare: Win the game.

While the “dare” turned out to be downright impossible, there’s an even larger truth that looms.

Ashland’s 12 years without a 16th Region title marks the longest-such drought in program history, tying a skid endured from 1941-1952. Harry Truman was president, and the Korean War was nearing an end.

These Tomcats weren’t interested in history lessons, though.

Said senior Ross Thompson: “We didn’t get it done, but it’s been a successful four years. Coach (Buddy) Biggs has 96 wins in four years. Most four-year players would love to have 96 wins.”

Is 12 years without a Sweet Sixteen acceptable for Ashland Tomcat basketball?

That’s up for debate, but Thompson admitted that expectations will never change in such a tradition-rich environment, encircled by a bevy of banners and a whale’s mouth of wins.

“We expected to win the region, and we definitely expected to be in this game tonight,” Thompson said after the 82-59 defeat to Fleming County.

Everything that had gone so right for Ashland during its wins over East Carter and Greenup County went so wrong on Tuesday.

“We had been getting every loose ball, and they got just about all of the 50-50 balls,” Thompson said. “I mean, they beat us on the glass. We thought that was something we could win.”

Miller is one of two returning starters for next year, if everyone comes back. Damantie Thornton is the other. Christian Villers also figures to slide into the starting mix next year.

Thompson said the future is bright, and the expectation will not waver. Who knows? Maybe the drought will end then.

“They should be right back here next year,” Thompson said. “With Christian and Damantie and Nick, and then freshman Hunter Copley stepping into a big role. Then there’s Josh Bradley, too. Hopefully they’ve learned from us (seniors).”

Thornton said the underclassmen have undoubtedly benefited from the seniors’ tutelage.

“I hope we work as hard as the seniors did,” he said. “They’ve always helped me with everything, even with personal things out of school.”

Thornton harnessed his skills with continued control throughout the season, significantly improving his ball-handling.

Biggs is already looking forward to next season, which begins with practice on Oct. 15.

“He just said we’ll come back next year ready to go,” said Thornton of the postgame message.

Biggs said this team left a mark that will linger.

“Our guys have always had to work harder and play harder to make up for whatever, lack of size or lack of quickness or whatever,” Biggs said. “I thought this group, in particular, was wonderful about that. Their work ethic was fantastic. We got to the finals of the (Ashland Invitational Tournament), the district and the region. We were there with great opportunities to win all three, we just fell short.

“This was a fun year,” he added. “They’re great kids, great students. They’ll go on to be wildly successful at a lot of things other than basketball.”

Biggs said the 2013-2014 Tomcats’ legacy is how hard they’ve worked.

And that, for Biggs, is the only truth that seemed to matter.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.

 

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