Ashland coach Buddy Biggs knew his team was coming into a hostile environment. He didn’t expect what happened coming out of it.
The Tomcats held Boyd County to under 35 percent shooting to defeat the Lions 77-63 on Friday night at Boyd County Middle School.
With a team featuring one player who has had significant minutes in big games, senior Zach Hart, Biggs thought his young squad played almost a perfect game.
“I thought we played as good as we could tonight,” Biggs said. “This young of a team, and a lot these guys not playing in this type of environment...for them to come in here and play the way they did, I’m very pleased.”
Junior guard Ross Thompson led the Tomcats with 18 points and seven assists.
Thompson’s numbers were a result of Ashland’s penetration through dribble drives, and either finding the basket or finding the open man.
Ashland had eight 3-pointers in the game, but Thompson also surprised people by using just his 5-foot-10 frame to finish in the paint.
“A lot of our game is drive and kick,” Thompson said. “If I can find a way to penetrate I’ll take it to the rim myself. If not I’ll kick it out for an open 3. I trust all these guys to hit the shot. Up two, down two, no matter the situation if we can have an open look I have a good feeling it’s going in.”
Hart finished the game with 15 points and five assists for the Tomcats, while forward Steven Fridley finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Ashland finished with 23 assists on 28 field goals, a statistic Biggs credits to his team’s ability to drive the ball.
“I don’t think we have any one guy who’s a dominant driver of the ball,” Biggs said. “But they all are pretty good at it. Our strength is in our numbers. All our guys are pretty good at driving it, they’re pretty good at handling it, they’re pretty good at passing it, but not dominant at one skill.
“They are all pretty good at a lot of skills. So we’re just going to keep playing a lot of kids and keep them fresh and hopefully wear down our opponent.”
While Ashland’s offense was synching together, it was the Tomcats’ defense that gave Boyd County’s senior leader Austin Hunt fits.
Hunt finished the game 3-of-15 from floor, and ended the game with seven points and eight rebounds.
Fellow Boyd County senior Brandon Lowe finished the game on 7-of-15 shooting with 16 points to lead the Lions.
While Lowe was able to do damage, the Tomcats were able to speed up Hunt, forcing him into several off-balance shots.
“Obviously we targeted Hunt and Lowe, who are two great high school players in this area,” Biggs said.
Boyd County coach Randy Anderson said while Hunt did struggle, the senior will be back in the gym on Monday working on his game.
“Austin knows he can play,” Anderson said. “He’s a kid who has a great work ethic and has a great head on his shoulder. He’s going to come back Monday and pack his lunch bucket and go get better.”
The Lions had a 16-15 lead going into the second quarter, but a 26-12 second quarter put Boyd County in a hole.
Anderson credits 15 Ashland offensive rebounds and his team’s failure to stop second-chance points as the biggest reasons for the second-quarter Tomcats surge.
“We told our kids at halftime that we got ourselves in a hole by giving up too many offensive boards and too many second- and third-chance shots,” Anderson said. “If a ball was loose, it seemed like Ashland won all those 50-50 balls. We got in the hole the first half because of that.”
Boyd County has started the season against two preseason favorites in Ashland and Russell, losing both games.
On Friday night Boyd County honored the 1973 team that won the region tournament.
Anderson said he got some good advice from a former member of the 1973 team.
“He told me that Ashland beat them the first time and to hang right in there,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a really good bunch of kids in the locker room and we’re a really good team. We’re not going to set the season on the first two games.”
And while Biggs is happy with the win, he knows when it all comes down to it, Boyd County won’t go away after Friday night.
“I know they’re 0-2 but they’re not going anywhere,” Biggs said. “Coach Anderson has done a great job rebuilding this program. These guys are going to be in the hunt come February and March.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.