Ashland had some fun in the inaugural Marvin Meredith Classic.
Host Russell? Not so much.
The Tomcats defeated Scott High 82-55 as guards Tyler Stewart and Ross Thompson combined for 39 points and 14 assists.
Wheelersburg’s physicalness was too much for Russell, which fell 56-46 in the second game of the showcase tournament at Marvin Meredith Gymnasium.
The late Russell basketball coach would have loved how the Tomcats played against Scott. Ashland shot a blistering 60 percent to steadily pull away from Scott, which was playing without its starting point guard. Blake Schneider was out with an injury.
“That’s a better team than they showed tonight,” said Ashland coach Buddy Biggs. “Their starting point guard was out tonight. He’s a huge difference-maker for them. We caught a little bit of a break there.”
But the Tomcats, who played a rugged pre-January schedule, took advantage behind career games from its perimeter duo. Stewart had 20 points and seven assists and Thompson collected 19 points and seven assists. He connected on all four of his 3-point attempts.
“That may be the best game Ross has played,” Biggs said. “I know it was one of his best shooting nights (Thompson was 5-for-6). Stewart’s speed and quickness getting to the rim was big and Ross was breaking down their pressure.”
Steve Friley, a senior forward, had a double-double with 15 points ands 15 rebounds while Nick Miller added 10 points and seven rebounds. Robert Wesley gave the Tomcats a boost with eight points and made both of his 3-point attempts.
“It was a good win,” Biggs said. “Everybody contributed.”
Ashland used an early 11-0 run to build a big lead, pushed it to 38-21 at the half and steadily pulled away. The lopsided victory was welcome relief.
“We talked about coming out in the second half with the same intensity and same passion,” Biggs said. “We did that and I think that’s important.”
Miller scored eight of his 10 in the second half, including a rim-rattling dunk off a nice pass from Stewart.
Ashland (7-3) was strong from the perimeter, too, making 6-of-10 from 3-point range.
“That was good to see because it’s an area where we’ve struggled a little,” Biggs said.
Wheelersburg was the more physical team in the second game and it sent the Red Devils to their 10th loss in 14 games.
The Pirates scored the game’s first eight points and held Russell without a point for the game’s first three minutes.
The Red Devils never fully recovered although they battled hard to trim the deficit to five points twice in the second half.
In the end, though, Russell had no answer for Dylan Miller, who collected 17 points and eight rebounds. The Pirates were also deadly from the foul line making the first 16 and 17 of 20 overall.
“Wheelersburg is a fundamentally sound team,” said Russell coach Merle Kidwell. “They were just too physical for us.”
Russell turned it over 20 times and had trouble finishing around the basket. Kidwell said both were results of not being strong enough.
“It caught up to us that we hadn’t put the time in the weight room that we need to,” he said. “(Point guard) Ramsey (Mullins) had a tough night with turnovers. It happens.”
Tyler Claxon’s defense on Mullins was a key for the Pirates, who led 30-20 at the half and put together spurts when they needed them in the second half.
Dylan Miller was usually the answer especially when the Red Devils were forced to go man-to-man. “We didn’t have anybody who could guard Dylan,” Kidwell said.
The Red Devils fell behind 38-25 before scoring eight in a row to trim the lead to 38-33 early in the fourth quarter. Ethan Raby’s fourth 3-pointer made it 46-41 midway through the quarter but the Pirates scored eight in a row to put the game away.
“You play these Ohio teams and they’re very physical because they let them play physical over there,” Kidwell said. “We battled and battled hard. I thought we made some strides.”
Raby was a bright spot with 17 points while Mullins finished with 14 points and Zach Tackett 11.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.