For The Independent
For the fifth time in seven years, Ashland will make an appearance in the finals of its own tournament after defeating Grant County, 79-58, on Saturday night.
While the Tomcats claimed a large margin of victory over the visiting Braves, the first half of play saw a very different scenario than the second.
Throughout the first eight minutes, both teams struggled to find their footing, with the quarter ending in a 13-8 score in favor of Ashland.
While much of the second period played out like the first, the latter part saw a three-point duel take place between Grant County’s (4-5) Aaron Hicks and Ashland’s Christian Villers.
From the 5-minute mark forward, Hicks was able to keep the Braves within striking distance, dialing in three straight from beyond the arc to pull his team within five, at 23-18.
With under a minute to play in the period, Villers caught fire, knocking down two big threes to give Ashland (7-2) a 33-27 halftime lead.
Villers provided an overall lift off the bench, tallying 14 points.
“My teammates just did a good job finding me, and I just knew that I could help break down that zone with my shooting,” Villers said about his late-half surge. “There were gaps to be found, and I just spotted up in those gaps, and made the shots I needed to make.”
The third period was all Ashland, as the Tomcats made the most of their opportunities, going on a 20-0 run, stymieing the Braves with full-court pressure to gain a 55-35 advantage. As has been the case lately, Ashland made the most of its trips to the free-throw line, connecting on 14 of its 18 in the period.
Ashland coach Buddy Biggs talked about histeam’s big showing after the half.
“I thought the third quarter was huge for us tonight,” Biggs said. “I thought we really came out and asserted ourselves. We got the game going more our speed, and were able to create some turnovers, which turned our offense around.”
Nick Miller, who picked up 16 on the night, led Ashland in the scoring department. Along with Villers, Steven Friley each had 14 for the Tomcats, while Tyler Stewart added 12.
Grant County’s Hicks led all scorers with 21.
The Tomcats, who’ve finished runner-up of the AIT for five of the past seven years, will face off against Cincinnati Roger Bacon tonight at 7:30 in tonight’s finals matchup.
Ashland 13 20 12 19 — 79
Grant County 8 19 12 19 — 58
Ashland (79) – Miller 16, Villers 14, Friley 14, Stewert 12, Thompson 6, Baker 4, Wesley 2, Mantle 2, Bradley 2. 3-PT Fgs: 5 (Villers 3, Miller 1, Thompson 1). FT: 30-43.
Grant County (58) – Hicks 21, Adkins 11, Johnson 6, Bennett 4, Rose 3, Burk 3, Albers 2. 3-PT Fgs: 8 (Hicks 5, Johnson 2, Adkins 1). FT: 14-17.
Roger Bacon 86
J. Central 68
As the old saying goes, the X’s and O’s of a game can mean the difference between a win and loss. This certainly rang true in Saturday’s semifinal matchup between Johnson Central (4-4) and Cincinnati Roger Bacon.
Roger Bacon was able to rattle Johnson Central early, forcing 19 first-half turnovers on its way to a win.
“Yeah, the turnovers really hurt us,” said Johnson Central coach Tommy McKenzie. “I really felt like we didn’t come out ready to play and when you give the ball away that many times, it makes it tough to win.”
On the flip side, the Spartans capitalized on the Eagles’ errors, with the majority of its 42 first-half points coming as a result of Central’s high turnover margin.
Roger Bacon coach Brian Neil was more than pleased with his team’s effort on the defensive side of the basketball.
“I was really proud of the way our guys put pressure on the ball tonight,” Neil said. “That big lead were able to build in the first was a result of the intensity we displayed on defense.”
Led by Austin Frenso’s perfect 7-of-7 effort at the stripe, the Spartans were a collective 26-of-34 for the game, while Johnson Central struggled statistically, connecting on only 16 of its 28 attempts from the fou line.
“Free throws hurt us tonight as well,” McKenzie said. “But that wasn’t the difference in the game. Had we came out and taken care of the ball in the first half, it could have been much different.”
Bacon’s Frentsos had the highest point total of the night, tallying 28 on the evening. Carlas Jackson also picked up 20 points for the Spartans.
Kyle Gullett put together a solid performance for the Eagles, leading his team with 17, while Shane Hall picked up 14.
Roger Bacon 26 16 17 27 — 86
J. Central 13 15 14 26 — 68
Roger Bacon (86) – Frentsos 28, Jackson 20, Niesen 10, Wiggs 8, Moore 5, McBride 5, Epperson 4, Greene 3, McGee 2, Willliams 1. 3-PT Fgs: 6 (Frentsos 3, Niesen 1, Jackson 1, Greene 1). FT: 26-34.
Johnson Central (68) – Gullett 17, Hall 14, Blair 12, Salyer 9, Rice 6, Adkins 4, Blair 2, Mckenzie 2, Ratliff 2. 3-PT Fgs: 4 (Gullett 3, Rice 1). FT: 16-28.
Simon Kenton 84
Fleming County 79
After falling in the first round of the AIT, Simon Kenton (6-3) and Fleming County (6-5) treated fans to a fast-paced shootout to kick off Day 2 of the 2013 tournament.
Taylor Morrison and Matt Mullins showed up big for Simon Kenton, contributing a 23 and 18 points total to lead their team to an 84-79 victory over the Panthers.
Fleming County was led by Troy Steward’s game-high 31. Austin Crisp just missed a 20-point total with 19.
Lewis County 69
In the second game of Saturday’s consolation round of the AIT, Lewis County (5-6) punched its ticket to a play for a chance at a fifth-place finish when it defeated Ironton 69-55. Ironton is 0-7.
Junior guard Brett Ruckel led the charge for the Lions, reeling off a game-high 26 points. Ruckel was joined in double figures by Trenton Walker who pitched in with 12, and Wade Adams’ 11.
Tristan Cox had a team-high 16 for Ironton. He was joined by Nate Garrard with 12, and Marcus Davis’ 10.