ASHLAND — The new kid in town hosted the first block party.
The Kentucky Kings, the freshest faces in the semi-professional Universal Basketball Association, hosted the Eastern Conference Tipoff Classic on Saturday. The preseason event consisted of four-fifths of the conference — the Louisville Flash beat the Indiana Generals before the Louisville Diesel outlasted the Kings, 100-99, in the nightcap.
Approximately between 150 and 175 people took in the Kings' first action in the National Guard Armory in Ashland. Only about 50 people were in attendance for the first game.
"When we had our first meeting in September, they talked about having a preseason classic somewhere," said Ricky Witt, the team's founder. "I figured, being the new team in the league, we could host it.
"I just want this to be something entertaining for Ashland. And I think it will be."
Kings coach Tim Fraley said he thought the crowd got its money's worth, even though the Kings lost.
"The game was just awesome, back and forth," Fraley said. "I couldn't be happier. We thought the Diesel was the best team in the conference coming in, and they've already played eight or nine scrimmage games. This was our first real game together. I'm stoked."
Anthony Williams, of Portsmouth, turned in an impressive performance. His 23 points were a team high. He came up with several second-chance opportunities in the fourth quarter, dropping buckets and/or drawing fouls.
Williams helped the Kings erase an eight-point deficit. They trailed 82-74 with 8:49 to go. The game was tied at 99-99 after a pair of Cam Miller free throws with 34 seconds remaining. Miller, a Wheelersburg product, had 20 points.
Carlos Mitchell led all scorers with 29 points. The Diesel guard made one of two free throw attempts with 5 seconds left to give Louisville a 100-99 advantage.
Miller worked for a decent look in the lane, but missed a short jumper amid contact as time expired.
"I came into this and didn't really know what to expect," Fraley said. "Now, my expectations are to be playing in June in Atlanta."
Those which emerge as the top two teams in the conference after a 15-game regular-season slate will move on to the postseason in Georgia's capital city.
The personal goal for many of these players is to possibly have a professional career in some manner, perhaps overseas, in the future.
Fraley, whose coaching experience consists of Rose Hill and Greenup County at the high school level, has noticed an immediate difference in his job.
"These guys can play!" he said. "It's kind of like (Kentucky coach John) Calipari. You have to manage egos, manage ball movement. These guys already know how to shoot, how to guard. You have to be more of a people manager than an X and O person."
Fraley does hope to develop a more defined inside-out game, considering 6-foot-8 forwards Chris Early, Miller and Williams bring plenty of talent to go with their size.
However, the 3-pointers were flying on both sides of the court. The Diesel drained 14 bombs, including seven by Sean Hampton, while the Kings splashed in a dozen. Drew Stevens notched 19 points, including five deep balls.
All of the crowd stuck around for the entertaining finish.
The teams play four 10-minute quarters and each player is allowed six fouls. Local high school officials worked the games on Saturday.
Moe's Southwest Grill and Little Caesar's were available as part of the concessions.
Witt said he is hopeful beer will be available during the Kings' official season opener on Saturday at 6 p.m. against the Flash.
Cost of admission to all games will be $10.
"If people come out and give it a try," Fraley assured, "they'll enjoy it."
Kentucky Kings (99) — Miller 20, W. Jones 6, Tyson 6, Carter 2, Pennington 2, Robinson 4, Stevens 19, Williams 23, Early 13, Jackson 4, Cotton, C. Jones. 3-Pt. FG: 12 (Stevens 5, Miller 2, Tyson 2, Early, Robinson, W. Jones). FT: 18-23.
Louisville Diesel (100) — Richard 17, Turner 10, Kelly 12, Medley 5, Mitchell 29, Hampton 23, Hayden 4. 3-Pt. FG: 14 (Hampton 7, Mitchell 4, Kelly 2, Richard). FT: 12-17.