The last time Boyd County’s boys basketball team won the 64th District title, Y2K was still 10 months away.
So it seemed only fitting that after beating Ashland 69-65 on Friday night, the Lions wanted to party like it was 1999.
Boyd County players started by jumping up and down together at midcourt immediately after the final buzzer at Boyd County Middle School. Students stormed the court to celebrate with the champs following the awards ceremony, then Lions players retired to the locker room to whoop it up with crazy team dancing.
“It’s just a fun thing they started last year,” coach Randy Anderson said after the music got rocking. “Five of the six seniors from last year came back to be a part of this tonight.”
After two regular season losses to the Tomcats, the third time was the charm for Boyd County.
Anderson’s cell phone was “blowing up,” as he sat down to discuss the victory.
“I’ve already got 18 texts,” he said. “I’ll get to those later. This is just tremendous for our kids. We have played some really good teams this season. We’ve been knocking on the door but haven’t been able to finish against a good team other than Rowan County. What happened tonight was big.”
Senior Jonah Black took over at crunch time after Ashland’s Nick Miller tied it at 58 on a lay-in with just over three minutes remaining.
Black struggled with his shot through three quarters, but the 6-foot-1 guard delivered when the Lions needed it the most.
Moments after passing up an open 3-point opportunity, Black got another good look from behind the arc and knocked down a tie-breaking trey with 2:20 left.
“Earlier in the game I was really dry,” he said of the drought. “I was losing confidence in myself, but my coaches and teammates trusted me. They said to keep shooting, that it would fall. I listened to them and made that one.”
After the Lions regained possession and took a timeout, Black found himself with an open lane to the basket for two points on the inbounds play. A quick steal and another Black layup made it 65-58.
Black, who sat out last season to concentrate on soccer, savored the moment afterwards.
“I just missed out on my junior year of basketball,” he said. “I wanted to come back and have fun with it this year. It was worth it.”
Black scored 11 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer midway through the period.
“Jonah really picked us up,” Anderson said. “He’s a special person with a terrific motor and great heart who is going to leave it all on the floor. Hitting that three with the game tied, it couldn’t have been any bigger.”
Another senior, Grayson Griffith, scored a game-high 18 points to lead four Lions in double figures.
“It’s indescribable,” Griffith said after the Lions cut down the net. “I just love being around my teammates. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had.”
Conner Gauze had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Boyd County (19-13), which finished with a 47-37 edge on the boards. Bobby Anderson scored 10 points and Tristan Burgess added nine.
Ashland (20-9) led 32-31 at halftime and increased the margin to five with baskets from Steven Friley and Damantie Thornton. But Griffith answered with a pull-up jumper and the contest again settled into a tight battle filled with intensity.
“It’s always like that with these two teams,” Black said. “I love playing in it.”
Ashland’s Miller ran into early foul, but scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Tomcats in contention. Thornton had 13 points, while Tyler Stewart and Friley each scored 10. Friley also pulled down 17 rebounds.
Ashland coach Buddy Biggs pointed to his team’s turnovers (17) and Boyd County’s rebounding advantage as key factors in the outcome.
“We didn’t execute well enough and Boyd County played well,” Biggs said. “Hats off to them.”
Both teams will learn their next opponents this morning at the 16th Region Tournament draw at Morehead State University.
“We are just trying to enjoy this now and worry about the region when it comes,” Griffith said.
It’s also the first time Boyd County’s boys and girls have won district titles in the same season since 1999.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.