For The Independent
FAIRLAND, Ohio —
When the going gets tough, the Ashland Kittens turn to a double dose of veterans.
Trailing 32-30 midway through the third period, a four-point trip by Haley-Sue Foutch led to a slew of baskets by herself and fellow junior Alexis Robinson, pushing Ashland to its largest lead of 43-34. This third-quarter cushion proved to be huge as Ashland staved off a fourth-quarter run by Centennial (Ohio) to grab a 55-52 win in the Napa Auto Centers Hoops Classic in Fairland.
Ashland coach Bill Bradley gave credit to the leadership of his veterans.
“In a game like this, against an athletic group of players, you want your best to step up for you, and they really took over for us when it counted,” Bradley said.
After going back-and-forth for most of the first half, the Stars gained their first lead midway through the third when Alyssa Dean took the ball coast-to-coast to put her team up 32-30.
Foutch, who had 19 points on the day, responded with a lay-in, taking a foul in the process. After coming up empty at the line, she completed a four-point trip with a big putback for the Kittens.
The duo of Foutch and Robinson combined for 13 of the Kittens’ 15 third-quarter points.
“We knew that they weren’t going to give up, and we know our roles as the veterans on this team, so we just stepped up,” Foutch said.
“We take pride in knowing that we are leaders on this team, and we figured we needed to take control at that point in the game,” Robinson said.
A few turnovers by the Kittens down the stretch of the fourth allowed Centennial (9-5) to make a game of it. With less than two minutes to go, Dean made the most of the opportunities, pulling her team within one of the Kittens at 51-50.
Robinson quickly responded with a drive through the lane, followed up with a 3-pointer by Shelby Gransberry.
The two teams exchanged turnovers three times in the final minute before the Stars’ Izzy Luances broke free for a layup, cutting the Kittens’ lead to 55-52. Bradley and his Ashland squad breathed a sigh of relief when a turnover led to a final attempt at a tie, with Luances’ 3-point attempt rattling in and out.
“We’re not used to playing that athletic of a team, and you have to take care of the ball down the stretch,” Bradley said. “Besides our few veterans, we are young and we realize that we are going to make those kind of mistakes. But we survived in the end, and that’s what matters.”
Centennial coach Darrin Green had nothing but good things to say about his team’s effort.
“We found ourselves down by as much as eight or 10 several times in the game, and we were able to fight back,” Green said. “I feel really good about my kids after this effort, and as a coach you’ve got to give your girls credit when they give that kind of effort.”
Robinson led all scorers with 23 points to go along with Foutch’s 19. Gransberry added eight for Ashland (9-3).
Centennial was led by Dean’s 17, with Marissa Robertson and Akiya Brown joining her in double figures with 12 and 11, respectively.
ASHLAND 14 14 15 12 — 55
CENTENNIAL 7 18 11 16 — 52
Ashland (55) — A. Robinson 22, Foutch 19, Garrison 8, Young 3, M. Robinson 3. 3-PT Fgs: 6 (A. Robinson 2, Foutch 2, M. Robinson 1, Young 1). FT: 7-9.
Centennial (52) — Dean 17, Robertson 12, Brown 11, Thompson 6, Luances 6. 3-PT Fgs: 1 (Brown 1). FT: 8-14.
Boyd County 61
Newark Catholic 60
Game two of Saturday’s Hoops Classic at Fairland went from being a rout to a barnburner throughout the course of the game.
Trailing by as many as 16 in the second quarter, Boyd County stayed the course, fighting its way back to an overtime win. Freshman Alexis Lunsford gave Boyd County its first lead of the day, at 61-60, which ended up being the final score.
Minus Destiny Goins, their main post presence, the Lady Lions found themselves outsized, with the Green Wave (9-1) consisting of three 6-footers on its roster.
Newark Catholic’s twin tower combo of Jill Blacksten and Ashleigh Parkinson were a big problem for Boyd in the first half. Blacksten, who had a game-high 23, picked up 13 first-half points, while Parkinson battled her way to eight. All together, 21 of the Green Wave’s 25 first-half points were scored by the tandem.
Down by eight to start the fourth quarter, Boyd County found sanctuary in its defense and from beyond the arc, connecting on four 3-pointers in the period.
Trailing by one after a lay-in by Taylor Wheeler, a turnover by the Lady Lions with less than 12 seconds to go allowed Newark Catholic to push its lead to 56-53 when Blacksten drained both attempts on a double bonus.
Without having scored a point in the quarter, guard Houston Reeves made the biggest basket of the night, completing the comeback with a three from the top of the key as time expired, providing Boyd County an extra four minutes to steal a win.
“I didn’t even think twice about it,” Reeves said. “Coach (Pete Fraley) just told us to shoot it if we got it. I was nervous when I let it go and my hands were shaking, but it went in and that was a great feeling.”
In overtime, the Green Wave struck first when Blacksten picked up four points in the first 1:30 to give her team a 60-56 advantage.
Another three by Reeves pulled the Lady Lions within one before they were able to force a turnover and foul, putting the game in the hands of Lunsford at the free-throw line.
With 29 seconds to go, Lunsford gave Boyd County a decisive 61-60 lead.
Fraley said he owes this win to his team’s refusal to give up.
“We may not be the most talented bunch in the world, but we’re scrappy and we don’t quit,” Fraley said. “We’d dug ourselves a pretty big hole early, but these girls just kept pushing and fighting. What can I say, this is a resilient team, and this was a good team win for us.”
Boyd County (9-4) saw four players hit double figures on the night, with Taylor Wheeler leading the way with 15 points. Reeves had 14, while Lunsford scratched the scorebooks for 13. Logan Fraley contributed a big third quarter, connecting on three from long range. She finished with 11.
Blacksten led all scorers with 26 for Newark Catholic (9-2), while Parkinson tallied 14 before fouling out in the fourth.
BOYD CO. 4 15 17 20 5 — 61
NEWARK CATH. 11 13 20 10 4 — 60
Boyd County (61) — T. Wheeler 15, Reeves 14, Lunsford 13, Fraley 11, Caldwell 4, Shavers 2, S. Wheeler 2. 3-PT Fgs: 10 (Reeves 4, Fraley 3, Lunsford 3, Foutch 2, M. Robinson 1, Young 1). FT: 9-14.
Newark Catholic (60) — Blacksten 26, Parkinson 14, Bourne 11, Durbin 7, Andrews 2. 3-PT Fgs: 4 (Bourne 2, Durbin 2). FT: 8-11.