For The Independent
Boyd County reached the finals of the 34th Annual Freshman Ashland Invitational Tournament by relying on its defense.
The championship game with Bath County proved to be no exception.
The young Lions’ full-court pressure completely overwhelmed the Wildcats for much of the game, forcing 24 turnovers en route to a 61-22 win on Thursday night at Alumni Gym.
Bath County coach Mark Collier was quick to take notice after the Wildcats coughed it up 10 times in the opening stanza.
“Boyd County is a really good, tough and physical team,” Collier said. “They are really hard to compete with.”
Boyd County shot out to a 10-0 lead just two minutes into the game. The margin ballooned to double digits on Hunter Kenser’s putback near the end of the quarter, but Bath County kept the score close with numerous trips to the free-throw line. The Lions committed 10 first-period fouls that led to the Wildcats to connect on 6 of 10 from the charity stripe.
It was much of the same for the rest of the half. Bath County cut the lead to 11 on 3-point bombs by Chris Carpenter and Ty Rodgers but the Lions closed out the frame on an 8-2 run to take a 34-17 lead into the break.
On the offensive side, Boyd County produced a balanced scoring effort. All nine players that dressed scored — a common theme all season long, according to Lions coach Jody Burgess.
“We get great play from eight players all the time,” Burgess said. “On occasion, we pick up Reese Robinson to make nine.”
The Lions were led in scoring by Kenser with 13 points and six rebounds. Cameron Taylor was also in double figures with 10. Tanner Evans and Robinson chipped in with nine points apiece. Zach Webb had eight.
Boyd County cranked up the defense in the second half, leading to more Wildcat miscues and easy buckets on the other end.
Bath County managed only one field goal and five points in the final 12 minutes. But most important, the Wildcats didn’t receive any free points from the line.
“That was key coming out in the third quarter was not to foul,” Burgess said. “They were in the bonus with four minutes left in the first quarter and that made a difference. They scored eight out of 17 points from the field and the other nine points from the foul line.”
Rodgers scored seven points for the Wildcats. Jake Mitchell tallied four.
Bath County didn’t fulfill its ultimate goal but Collier was pleased with the way his team played during the week that included a one-point defeat of host and defending champion Ashland.
“I could not be more proud of my guys coming up here and competing,” Collier said. “They gave everything they had.
“To beat the home team in the tournament and get to the championship of the (freshman) AIT winning three out of four is an outstanding accomplishment. Ashland hosted a great tournament.”
Rowan County defeated Ironton 44-31 in the consolation game to finish in third place.
BOYD CO. 17 17 12 15 — 61
BATH CO. 8 9 2 3 — 22
Boyd County (61) — Mullen 4, Webb 8, Evans 9, Taylor 10, Phelps 2, Gauze 4, Kenser 13, Robinson 9, Jerrell 2. FT: 5-11. 3-PT FG: 2-7 (Webb, Robinson) PF: 17. Fouled Out: None. Turnovers: 12.
Bath County (22) — Spurlock 3, Mitchell 4, Rodgers 7, Peyton, Finch, Carpenter 3, Collett, Patton 3, Reed 2 FT: 12-21. 3-PT FG: 2-8 (Rodgers, Carpenter) PF: 12. Fouled Out: None. Turnovers: 24.