Ashland started the high school basketball season rippin’ and runnin’.
The fast and furious Tomcats raced past Lewis County, 92-68, in front of a nice crowd at James A. Anderson Gymnasium on Tuesday night.
Five players scored in double figures with a senior and sophomore leading the way. Senior Steven Friley turned in a monster game of 21 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots while sophomore Christian Villers came off the bench to score 21 points.
“Great game, great atmosphere,” said Tyler Stewart, who scored 17 points. “We came out and showed people what we can do.”
Ashland showed the Lions some of that transition game during a 15-2 spurt that broke the game open in the second quarter. Lewis County was hanging around at 20-15 after fighting back from a 10-point deficit when the hammer came down.
“We really played hard and ran the floor hard both ways,” said Ashland coach Buddy Biggs. “We ran it on offense and got back on defense. That was the key early. We wanted to jump on them.”
With Friley scoring 15 of his 21, the Tomcats built a surprising 47-27 advantage at the half. The teams played fairly even in the second half but Ashland was never threatened.
“The second quarter was definitely the quarter,” said Lewis County coach Joe Hampton. “We always let Ashland go on that one huge run. We got beat four in the second half.”
The game was filled with fouls and turnovers by both teams early. They combined for 13 fouls and 12 turnovers in the first quarter alone.
Lewis County scoring leader Brett Ruckel was forced to the bench with his second foul only 69 seconds into the game. “Brett getting in foul trouble didn’t help,” Hampton said.
But the Tomcats never took it out of high gear, racing up and down the court with every opportunity and forcing the issue on defense.
“Our biggest keys were rebounding and transition ‘D’ and Ashland absolutely killed us on both these things,” Hampton said.
Friley and Nick Miller, who collected 15 points and 13 rebounds, dominated the inside. Friley’s long arms also accounted for several altered shots to go with his five blocks.
“I was disappointed we didn’t make it more of a game,” Hampton said. “I’ll be more disappointed if the team doesn’t react like I expect them to.
“It looks like, right now, Ashland has a good draw in the (Ashland Invitational Tournament).”
Ruckel led Lewis County with 20 points but most of it came in the second half. The Lions will have another shot at Ashland in the opening round of the AIT.
Damantie Thornton added 10 points and five rebounds for the Tomcats, who play host to Boyd County on Friday night in a 64th District seeding game. Ashland then goes to state-ranked Montgomery County on Saturday.
Biggs was pleased with almost every area of the opener except for foul shooting (18 of 30) and fouls committed. “Those were the only negative stats we had,” he said. “We outrebounded them and had 14 turnovers. We tell the kids we want to have 15 turnovers or less every game. Five guys in double figures is fantastic.”
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.