Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 9, 2012

Tomcats use big second half to beat Clark County

The Independent

WINCHESTER — Ashland boys basketball coach Buddy Biggs was battling a cold during most of Friday's game at George Rogers Clark.

The Tomcats gave Biggs the hardwood equivalent of a heating pad and menthol salve on his chest. They overwhelmed the Cardinals in the second half, 55-29, on the way to a 92-73 victory.

Friday was the first time Biggs has defeated Clark after seven losses since he's been at Ashland, and he wasn't sure one of his Tomcat teams ever scored 55 points in a half.

“The cold is not quite as bad as it was before the game, there's no question,” Biggs said. “When you play a second half like that, you've got to give all the credit to the kids.”

For sophomore Nick Miller, his 23 points with 4-of-6 from three-point range was a long way from missing most of last season with a foot injury.

“If anything, it's going to get me going for the rest of the games,” Miller said.

And if you didn't know Ashland sophomore Dikembe Dixson could be a special player in the 16th Region, take a look at Friday's numbers: 28 points, 12-of-17 shooting from the field, eight rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and six steals.

Besides the scoring, Ashland turned a 22-11 rebounding deficit into a 31-29 triumph.

Ashland (3-0) has not seen its own court all year and had not played since knocking off Boyd County Nov. 30 in Cannonsburg, and in last night's first half, the Tomcats looked rusty as a 1957 Chevrolet that had sat in the garage since '65 — just one field goal over the final 4:41 of the first quarter.

“I was kind of upset with myself, but not with the team,” Dixson said. “We started out a little bad, so second half we did better, and the outcome was a win.”

Miller was involved in Ashland's first five points. He scored a little more than a minute in, and his pass from the top of the circle led to Zach Hart's 3-pointer from the right wing less than 30 seconds later.

Clark had some early foul trouble — guard Braxton Greene picked up a couple whistles. Good thing the Cardinals had forward Khmarkis Blanton, who scored six points in less than two minutes, which helped tie the game at 12-12.

And the Tomcats? No points for more than two minutes until Miller's free throw cut the Cardinal lead to 14-13.

Clark (0-4) countered with a 5-0 run on the way to its 19-13 lead after one quarter.

The Cardinals' speed continued to frustrate Ashland in the second. The Tomcats made just 11 of 26 shots in the half, and Clark held a 22-11 rebounding edge.

A Malik Warner bucket put Clark up 46-37 just 21 seconds into the third quarter.

Then, a whole lot of Dixsonian drama.

After Ross Thompson’s two free throws, Dixson: scored a layup off his steal of Warner's pass; took Miller's pass for another layup; and two steal-and-slam dunks in 15 seconds. That's eight points in 63 seconds, which gave Ashland a 49-47 lead.

“It felt amazing,” Dixson said. “My adrenaline was rushing, all that good stuff.”

Next, some Zach Hart heroics and Tyler Stewart scoring. Hart scored on a baseline drive and served the assist Stewart turned into a 3-pointer, followed by Stewart's three points.

Clark stayed close, trailing by just 55-54 midway through the third thanks to Blanton's five points. He led the Cardinals with 23 points and 11 rebounds.

The 6-foot-6 Dixson followed the earlier streak with four points and a block on the way to Ashland's 63-59 lead after three quarters.

“(Dixson's) length kind of took over,” Clark  coach Scott Humphrey said. “They turned us over a couple times. We became tentative, they became aggressive; that's probably the difference.”

The fourth quarter featured some Miller malice. In less than a minute he scored eight points, including two 3-pointers.

Two more Tomcats contributed. Steven Friley had four points, and Thompson poured in seven over the final 1:43.

Ashland hosts Greenup County next Tuesday before a Northern Kentucky swing to Boone County and Beechwood next weekend and three games at the Raceland Derby Classic Dec. 20-22.

So how long will Dixson remember Friday's win? Not very.

“This is the game I'll remember until Tuesday,” he said.