As they headed to the bench with 56 seconds remaining and Ashland’s fifth consecutive 64th District championship locked up, Logan Salow turned and slapped hands with teammate Dikembe Dixson.
Well done, indeed.
The senior guard and dynamic 6-foot-6 sophomore fueled one of Ashland’s top performances of the season in a 67-48 pasting of Boyd County on Friday night.
The Tomcats shot 51 percent from the field, defended well and outrebounded the Lions 32-23 on their own floor to avenge a 12-point defeat from mid-January.
“Just give them their due,” Boyd County coach Randy Anderson said. “Ashland played good defense, had good spacing offensively, shot well, dominated the boards, and I don’t know if they missed a free throw. They did all the things you have to do to win a big game.”
Ashland coach Buddy Biggs called it one of the Tomcats’ most complete games of the season, especially on the defensive side.
“The last time we played them, we gave up 85 points (season high) and that was at our place,” Biggs said. “To win here, like that, I’m really pleased with our kids.”
Defensively, the Tomcats have since gone primarily to a 2-3 zone in the half court. They moved well Friday, came up with 19 turnovers and didn’t allow Boyd County many opportunities around the basket.
Salow summed up the difference in the last two meetings in one word: team.
“We played completely as a team every second tonight,” Salow said. “We held each other accountable on both ends of the floor. Dikembe was a big part of what we did defensively. I told him to get every rebound, and he pretty much did.”
Dixson grabbed 13 rebounds to go with his 24 points — both game highs — for his 13th double-double of the season. The Tomcats’ home loss to Boyd County provided him with extra incentive.
“We wanted revenge, and the championship,” Dixson said. “We all help each other in the locker room, talking about what to do and what not to do.”
Dixson had 13 points and six rebounds in the first half to help send the Tomcats out to a 33-24 advantage at the intermission.
Ashland led by 12 after three quarters and put the game away with a 13-2 run to start the final quarter. Salow started it with a 3-pointer and Dixson accounted for seven points with a lay-in, putback and three free throws.
Shortly after, Salow measured another 3-point shot on the wing and buried it to give the Tomcats their largest cushion at 64-40.
Salow was 3-for-5 from beyond the arc and finished with 17 points, four assists and a couple of steals.
“That’s a two-headed monster there,” Anderson said. “Dixson is so long. If you allow him to get within four or five feet of the rim, you’re in a lot of trouble. I’ve seen Salow two or three times in the last few weeks and he’s shooting the ball with a lot of confidence.”
Actually, Ashland was more like a three-headed beast Friday in racking up its 57th all-time district title.
What rebounds Dixson didn’t grab, sophomore Nick Miller was usually there to pull them down. His final stat line read: 15 points, eight rebounds and one of the Tomcats’ nine steals.
“It’s the best night I’ve had in a while,” said Miller, who is returning to form after dealing with back problems. “Hopefully this will get me back on track.”
Ashland (22-9) has won 10 of its last 11 games, but none felt better than the district final in front of a large crowd at Boyd County Middle School.
“We played with a lot of emotion,” Miller said. “Boyd County is always a big game. Winning here for the district championship, it’s even bigger.”
Both teams move on to the 16th Region Tournament next week at Morehead State University. The draw will be conducted this morning.
“I want to give a lot of credit to Boyd County,” Biggs said. “Their program is back. We’ve had three intense games with them this season. Who knows? There could be a fourth.”
Tristan Burgess came off the bench to lead the Lions (21-11) with 13 points. Austin Hunt and Grayson Griffith each scored 11.
At the pre-tournament business meeting, representatives for the 64th District’s four member schools voted to do away with the traditional girls and boys All-Tournament teams.
Instead, individual awards were handed out to members of the championship teams Thursday (Ashland’s girls) and Friday (Ashland’s boys). As in past years, the winning and runner-up teams received team trophies.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@