Ashland’s six seniors wanted to make their final game at James A. Anderson something to remember.
In order to do so, the Kittens needed to knock off the 16th Region’s winningest team and avenge last month’s 18-point loss to archrival Boyd County.
Coach Bill Bradley and his players made it happen Thursday night, using a team effort to come from behind in the second half and beat the Lady Lions 61-54 for a sixth consecutive 64th District championship.
“It’s my senior year, and I didn’t want to lose on my home court the last time here,” said co-captain Kaylyn Gambill, who bombed in a trio of 3-pointers in the second half to help lift the Kittens. “We just wanted to go out and win. We have a goal to go back to Diddle (Arena).”
The Kittens trailed by eight points in the second quarter against Boyd County’s tough matchup zone defense.
They buckled down, however, using timely 3-pointers and clutch free-throw shooting the rest of the way to come out on top in the district final once more.
“At halftime, we had not scored much,” senior forward Sydney Cullop said of a 28-23 deficit. “If we wanted it, we knew we had to give everything we had. I’m so proud of our team. We’ve worked so hard in practice and encouraged each other.”
Cullop drained a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to put the Kittens in front to stay, and Gambill followed with a rainbow shot from the corner for her fourth trey of the night.
Ashland (22-6) used a 6-0 spurt to stretch the lead to 54-46 with 1:55 remaining. Alicia Gunter hit a runner from the baseline, Haley Sue Foutch made a putback and Allie Slone followed with two free throws. Gunter and Slone are also part of the team’s senior class.
Boyd County (24-8) trimmed it to 57-54 on Emily Stewart’s basket with 30 seconds left, but Foutch and Slone each sank two free throws to seal it.
“It was a war tonight,” Bradley said on the court as the post-game celebration wound down. “Already four different girls got ice packs after the game.”
Ashland took a 2-1 lead in the season series against Boyd County. Both teams advance to the regional tournament next week at Morehead State University.
“Boyd County is so competitive,” Bradley said. “Pete (Fraley) has them so ready. They are a physical team and play that matchup. We are more of a finesse team, but knew we had to get in there and fight.”
Super sophomore Alexis Robinson led the Kittens with 17 points and 10 rebounds. She hit both of her 3-point shots, including an NBA-range connection to pull Ashland even in the early stages of the third quarter.
“I guess we started hitting shots,” Robinson said. “Gambill really came up big. It was a really big win.”
Cullop finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. Gambill scored 12 points and Foutch had 10 despite playing with foul trouble.
Taylor Wheeler had 20 points and Stewart 16 for Boyd County. Guard Logan Fraley picked up three fouls in the first three minutes and missed the rest of the half.
“That definitely hurt,” Pete Fraley said. “Ashland got some open looks in the corner a couple of times in the second half. They did a good job of spreading the floor and knocking down open shots.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.