Ashland countered Raceland’s gem of a first-half defensive effort with a jewel of its own.
Frustrated early by the young Lady Rams’ active 2-3 zone and their own missed shots, the Kittens bumped up the heat on their press and pulled away to a 55-28 victory Monday night.
Ashland managed only a slim lead midway through the third quarter, but held Raceland (3-18) to two points during an 11-minute stretch of the second half.
“Defense won it tonight,” said Kittens coach Bill Bradley. “Our two leading scorers, Alexis (Robinson) and Kaylyn (Gambill), were not hitting shots. We had a good little chat at halftime. We needed a boost and our defense really picked up the whole second half.”
Ashland hounded the Lady Rams into 32 turnovers on the night and limited them to their lowest scoring output of the season.
“That’s the most (turnovers) we’ve had in a long time,” Raceland coach Randy Vanderhoof said. “You’ve got to give Ashland credit. They did a really good job of turning their defense up.”
Senior forward Sydney Cullop came up with six steals and Robinson four, while the Kittens held Raceland to 29-percent shooting from the field.
Cullop made two driving layups, while Robinson hit a short jumper and handed out two assists to fuel a 10-0 run that finally gave the Kittens some breathing roon at 35-22.
Ashland rattled off the first 13 points of the fourth quarter, beginning with a Gambill trey, to double up the Lady Rams at 48-24.
“We had good effort in the second half,” Bradley said. “Sydney did a really good job getting us going. She created steals, had some offensive rebounds and ran the floor.”
Cullop scored eight of her 11 points in the second half. Sophomore post player Haley Sue Foutch finished with a game-high 14 points and also grabbed nine rebounds.
Gambill scored 12 to go over 1,700 points for her career despite 5-for-18 shooting. Robinson’s playmaking, defense and seven rebounds helped to offset her 3-for-16 night from the floor.
“She’s a tremendous athlete and tremendous player,” Raceland coach Randy Vanderhoof said.
At the same time, Raceland’s coach continues to be pleased with his team’s progress. The Lady Rams started four freshmen and a sophomore.
“We’re getting better,” Vanderhoof said. “We’re a lot better than what our record shows. We’ve really improved the last three weeks.”
The Lady Rams outrebounded Ashland 40-35, with freshmen Savannah Cotton and Krystal Keeton combining for 19. Cotton also scored 10 points.
“I’m really happy with the defense and rebounding effort,” Vanderhoof said. “We’re extremely young. We may be the youngest team in the state playing varsity basketball.”
Bradley was impressed.
“Anybody that scouted Raceland would say how hard they play,” Bradley said. “They have some big, strong girls. They just laid it to us in the first half.”
Raceland is back on their home floor tonight against Fairview. Ashland visits Rose Hill Christian on Friday before hosting fifth-ranked Madison Central the following night.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.