For The Independent
OLIVE HILL —
Whenever Ashland wins a basketball game, head coach Buddy Biggs walks into the locker room without a word.
About a millionth of a nanosecond later, he screams: “All right!”
Biggs's boisterousness on Tuesday might have been heard in Central Park. The Tomcats rolled to a 68-48 win at West Carter behind Steven Friley's 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“That’s just something we have fun with, with the kids,” Biggs said. “I do that after the wins, not after the losses obviously. The kids get a kick out of it; they get real quiet … That’s just our way of celebrating. They work awful hard.”
If nothing else, Tuesday showed two more things. It showed Ashland can play well without junior forward Nick Miller, and it helped erase the memory of Monday’s 86-69 loss at Johnson Central.
“We went (into Johnson Central) shorthanded, and they jumped on us early, which is what I think we did (Tuesday),” Biggs said.
Friley said his team definitely misses Miller, “but the other guys have to step up.”
Was Friley the only reason Ashland celebrated? Hardly: sophomore Christian Villers scored 17 points; senior guard Tyler Stewart scored 14 points; and sophomore Damantie Thornton added nine points and 10 boards.
Miller, the Tomcats’ leading scorer with 15.9 points a game, continues to be sidelined with a back injury. Biggs said Miller will see his doctor today, which means his status for Friday’s regular season finale at Russell is uncertain.
“We’re hopeful to get some good news,” Biggs said.
Ashland (18-7, and 5-2 over its last seven games) got lots of good news in Tuesday’s first quarter, and it seemingly came from everywhere.
Friley had six points in less than 90 seconds. He finished the half with 11 points and led all scorers at the break with 13 points.
Villers, who started in Miller’s spot, he hit 3 of 4 from 3-point range. His 3 with a second to go in the period capped Ashland’s 26-10 lead.
A nearly six-minute segment of the opening stanza illustrates what happened. After Ben Jordan’s bucket pulled the Comets to within 5-4, not another West point until Chase Hanshaw scored nearly three minutes later, and just two Hayden Roe free throws and Dalton Spurlock’s field goal with 20 ticks left.
“I think we had 10 turnovers the first half, five the second half,” Comets coach Jeremy Webb said. “ ... After we somewhat got used to the style that they play, then we relaxed a little bit more, and we were able to play them pretty close to straight up from that point on. But still, you dig yourself a 16-point deficit the first quarter, that’s very difficult to dig yourself out of, especially against a quality team like Ashland.”
Going into this week, West (9-12) was playing some of its best basketball — four wins in the last six games. Tuesday was the second straight loss (the first vs. Elliott County).
“I don’t feel like fatigue is an excuse, just simply because we didn't put forth the maximum effort,” Webb said about the Elliott County game. “ ... I think (Tuesday) was simply not being used to and preparing for Ashland’s system and style that they like to play.”
West’s best run last night was a 10-2 streak three minutes into the second quarter, and like Ashland’s string, the Comets had a variety of scoring: Spurlock’s 3-pointer and an assist; Braden Brown’s three points; Jordan's stick-back of Roe’s miss.
Ashland held West Carter to just six third-quarter points.
Spurlock led West Carter with 12 points. Roe was next with 11, and Jordan added 10.