It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but Ashland coach Bill Bradley will take it.
Ashland defeated Rowan County, 41-23, in the opening round of the 16th Region Tournament on Saturday at Ellis T. Johnson Arena.
The Kittens’ 41 points accounted for their second-lowest point total this season. But as Ashland’s offense struggled, its defense kept them ahead.
“Last year (defense) won us the championship,” Bradley said. “Nobody shoots well here in every game. The constant thing we have is our defense.”
Along with forcing 19 Rowan County turnovers, the Kittens’ aggressive defense gave the Lady Vikings fits — they shot just 19.4 percent from the field.
Rowan County coach Jen Williams said her team really struggled to get into its offense. She credited that to the defense of Ashland point guard Alexis Robinson.
“They are a very good defensive team,” Williams said. “When you have a long 5-foot-11 point guard defending your 5-5 point guard ... players are open, it’s just hard to get them the basketball.”
Though intense on defense, the Kittens couldn’t find a groove on the offensive end.
Ashland shot just 36.4 percent from the floor against Rowan County’s 3-2 zone. The Kittens also shot just 3 of 18 from 3-point range.
Bradley said his team will probably see zone the rest of the tournament after Saturday night’s game.
“We’ve got to hit a few outside shots or they are just going to keep packing it in,” Bradley said. “Monday they are probably going to play a 2-3 — we haven’t seen a man-to-man in almost eight games. We’ve got to hit some outside shots.”
Ashland was led by Sydney Cullop, who scored a game-high 14 points. She was the only Kitten in double figures.
Bradley credits Cullop’s good offensive game to her big-game experience.
“She’s played long enough now to be able to find her seams,” Bradley said. “She wasn’t nervous and she was going into those seams hard. We found her and she finished inside.”
The game marked the first for both the Lady Vikings and the Kittens in nine days — Ashland won the 64th District championship on Feb. 21.
Cullop didn’t exactly enjoy the wait.
“Having that whole time off is just throwing everyone off,” Cullop said. “Getting that first win and getting back to playing on the floor feels really good.”
The biggest basket for Cullop came in the third period. With the clock winding down, the senior drove the lane and sank a floater as the buzzer went off.
The shot started a 7-1 Ashland run, and it allowed the Kittens to start putting distance between them and Rowan County.
“I was pretty confident it was going in,” Cullop said. “But when it went in, I was pretty happy.”
Kaylyn Gambill had nine points on three 3-pointers for Ashland. Haley Sue Foutch finished with six points on 3-of-3 shooting.
Robinson finished with just four points, but contributed eight rebounds and five assists.
Bradley said it was Robinson who led the charge in the fourth to give the Kittens a little breathing room.
“Alexis got a little relaxed and hit some jumpers there,” Bradley said. “Her passing got sharper and that really opened things up for us.
“As she goes, we go. If she’s relaxed and playing well, we’re playing well.”
Rowan County (15-14) made just six total shots from the field. The only player to crack double figures in scoring was Faith Conn, who finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“She’s the heart and soul of our team,” Williams said. “We got down by 17 and she was still diving to the ground for loose balls. She was getting in the huddle trying to motivate the team — she’s not only a great player, she’s a great kid.”
Ashland (23-6) will play Lewis County in the semifinals on Monday with tipoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Two wins separate Ashland from a second consecutive region championship and Cullop said it’s going to be a fight the rest of the way.
“We have seven seniors and we’ve said it’s all or nothing at this point,” Cullop said.
‰Tickets for Monday’s semifinal game will be on sale for the general public on Monday from 1 to 3 p.m. at Ashland Blazer High School.
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but Ashland coach Bill Bradley will take it.
- Local Sports
Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)
The Fleming County Panthers waited nearly an hour to ascend the ladders set up under the goals at Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Tuesday night.
To the victor belongs the spoils, which traditionally includes the nets after winning a tournament title. But Fleming County milled around on Morehead State’s floor taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere after handling Ashland 82-59 in the 16th Region Tournament final.
Snipping the twine was almost an afterthought. In fact, except for a minute or so of celebration with their student section immediately following the final buzzer, the Panthers didn’t really even seem all that excited.
They expected to be here, and they were all business after earning back-to-back region titles and trips to Rupp Arena.
AARON SNYDER: Truth or Dare unkind to ’Cats
Ashland was left feeling like the shy kid after an intense game of Truth or Dare.
Truth: Fleming County outrebounded Ashland, 39-24, after Ashland outdueled Greenup County by 10 the night before.
'Relaxed' Steward earns MVP award
Both Fleming County coach Mark Starns and stellar senior Troy Steward attributed his significant strides this season to aggressiveness.
Playing a part, too, in Steward earning the 16th Region Tournament Most Valuable Player award was the lack of nerves, which were nearly overwhelming at times a year ago.
Central's 15th Region reign continues
Once was good.
Twice was nice.
Three was sweet for the Johnson Central Eagles.
Senior Slade McPeek scored 22 points and earned most valuable player honors Tuesday night as Johnson Central rolled past Shelby Valley, 81-56, for its third straight 15th Region championship at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
- Fleming goes for two: Panthers beat Ashland for 16th Region repeat Fleming County pulled away early and never looked back as the Panthers pounced on Ashland, winning 82-59 in the 16th Region championship game on Tuesday in Morehead. Fleming County will face Scott County in the Sweet Sixteen next Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
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