Bath County is still looking for its first win of the new year, but the Wildcats showed Thursday night they are still dangerous.
Coach Larry Tiller’s team wiped out practically all of a 20-point first-half deficit before Ashland regrouped for an 83-68 victory at Anderson Gym.
Playing without top rebounder Logan Dailey, who is serving a two-game suspension, Bath County put together a couple of runs to close within 47-44 midway through the third quarter.
“They played hard,” Tomcats coach Buddy Biggs said. “Looking at their team, they have some nice parts to the puzzle.”
The determined play of the Wildcats, now 6-14, was no surprise to Ashland’s coach.
Biggs carries respect for the first-year Bath County coach, dating back to their head-to-head battles in the 10th Region. Biggs was at Pendleton, while Tiller coached at Estill County.
“Coach Tiller does a great job getting a lot out of his players,” Biggs said. “They made a nice comeback. Fortunately we were able to answer it.”
The Tomcats turned up their defense, forcing 14 turnovers in the second half and putting the game away with a 20-5 surge in the fourth quarter.
Ashland (14-8) sizzled from 3-point territory for the second time this week — connecting on 8 of 15 attempts — and shot 51 percent overall. Senior Logan Salow made all four of his 3-point shots, three coming in the first quarter to help send the Tomcats out to a 20-6 lead.
“I was really pleased with our offensive execution,” Biggs said. “We did a great job of swinging the ball, driving the ball and making perimeter shots.”
Sophomore post player Dikembe Dixson continued his outstanding play with 26 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.
It marked Dixson’s eighth consecutive 20-point game and third double-double in a row. He has nine for the season.
“He’s a very impressive athlete who can do a lot of things,” Tiller said. “We had a 6-foot-6 guy (Eli Bell) in there that can block shots. Dixson does a great job moving and getting to the basket.”
Dixson got going early in the second quarter with three baskets, capped by a soaring dunk off an Ashland steal.
Senior Zach Hart also made a huge impact with 22 points, eight rebounds and two steals. Biggs called it probably Hart’s most complete game as a Tomcat.
“Zach played strong with the ball and really drove the basketball,” Biggs said. “When he does that, it makes us a better team.”
Hart scored 14 points in the second half, including a driving layup just ahead of the third-quarter buzzer to extend Ashland’s lead to 61-52. In the fourth quarter, he was fouled while scoring on another strong move to the hoop. Hart missed the free throw, but grabbed the rebound and passed to an open Salow for his fourth 3-pointer of the night.
“Ashland outplayed us” Tiller said. “They played very good basketball. I was impressed with their controlled fast break. They play an up-and-down game with few mistakes.”
The Tomcats travel to Fairview tonight for a key game in the race for the top seed in the 64th District Tournament.
Keegan Sammons scored 15 points to lead Bath County (6-14). Sophomore Tyler Newton followed with 12 on four 3-pointers. He missed only once from beyond the arc.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.