When Ashland is poised to win, the pre-heat button is nowhere to be found.
The Kittens skipped forward to a full-fledged boiling point from the get-go on Friday as an initial 20-6 surge turned into a 62-46 win over East Carter at Harold Holbrook Complex East.
“The games we’ve lost, we’ve started out slow,” said Kittens coach Bill Bradley. “I thought the energy was really good tonight coming out of the gate.”
Alexis Robinson, Ashland’s primary stat-sheet stuffer, tallied 20 points, nine rebounds and five blocks to pace the Kittens. But, before she got into her shooting rhythm, plenty of others dipped into the points pool.
Kaylyn Gambill drilled two 3-pointers, Haley Sue Foutch connected from deep and Sydney Cullop used her relentless hustle to help Ashland to a decisive start.
East Carter coach Hager Easterling was highly disappointed in his team’s first-half performance.
“I thought Ashland played 32 minutes,” Easterling said. “Well, East Carter’s got to be willing to play 32 minutes.
“I believe this with all my heart ...” he continued. “... When you talk about eight, nine or 10 players, I think we’re just as talented as they are, but the obvious difference was, man, they fought. Every rebound, every loose ball ...”
The Kittens (20-6) also held onto the ball. They turned it over just three times in the first half.
East Carter (22-7) pulled to within 22-14 after a Kelsey Stumbo bucket, but Ashland’s Maddy Jones answered with a 3-point basket off an assist from Cullop.
Easterling thought that was a key sequence.
“We let a defensive rebound bounce off our hands, then we didn’t dive after a loose ball, they got it and hit a three,” Easterling said.
Haley Hall gave the Lady Raiders a nice spark off the bench in the second quarter — she tallied 11 total points and six rebounds — but Ashland sustained a comfortable cushion. Starter Bryana Greenhill matched Hall with team-high scoring honors.
Ashland had its bench contributions, too. Cayce Layne swished two triples in the final couple minutes of the second period.
Robinson hit her scoring stride midway through the third quarter. The sophomore point guard displayed her exquisite mid-range game with some beautiful moves and smooth jumpers.
What she was most proud of, though, was her five rejections.
“Defense helps us win games,” she said. “Those were key.”
Bradley’s take: “I liked her rebounds. She had 16 against St. Joe (on Monday) and nine tonight. If her energy stays up, she has the ability to put up a triple-double.”
Aside from Robinson, Ashland had six players in the scoring column. They each scored between five and nine points — Haley Sue Foutch had nine points and seven boards, Cullop recorded eight points and nine rebounds, Jones racked up eight points and Gambill and Layne had six apiece. Allie Slone chipped in five.
Bradley likes his team’s state as it heads into 64th District tournament play. The Kittens host Rose Hill on Monday.
“Besides our shooting the last couple games (before shooting 46 percent on Friday), I thought our other things have been great,” Bradley said.
Ashland has now beaten East Carter twice this season. The first meeting resulted in a 60-47 Kittens victory.
“This really makes the point to all the other teams that we still have unfinished business,” Robinson said of the defending 16th Region champions.
East Carter hosts the 62nd District tournament next week. The Lady Raiders face Elliott County on Wednesday.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.