Defense and rebounding generally come down to just one factor. Effort.
Effort is normally the defining characteristic of every Kristy Orem-coached Fleming County team.
Even matching the relentless pressure of the Panthers is a tough task, so to surpass it is something special. Ashland was able to accomplish just that on Thursday night at James A. Anderson Gym in a 67-47 win on Senior Night.
The Kittens forced Fleming County into 22 turnovers and dominated the backboards.
“It is really hard to outwork a team coached by Kristy Orem. That is her staple,” Ashland coach Bill Bradley said. “They outwork everybody, and we told them that before the game to not get outworked. There is no way that we got outworked tonight.”
The always fiery Orem agreed. Her team simply did not match the effort of Ashland, especially early, she said.
“They outworked us. They beat us to loose balls. Rebounds and loose balls drive me crazy,” Orem said. “Anybody can do those things. I literally can bring people in this gym in and they can do those things to help a team win.”
Seven Kitten seniors were recognized, and Bradley took the opportunity to give two normal reserves, Cayce Layne and Breanna Gransberry, the chance to start.
The two combined to score just six points, but it was their effort that Bradley said fueled the team early.
“They don’t normally start and they were out there diving for loose balls, and the ones who normally start saw that and kind of took it from there,” Bradley said. “We just took it to them tonight.”
The Ashland defense was especially effective in the first half, when it forced Fleming County into 13 miscues and held the Panthers to just 5-of-18 shooting.
Leading 16-11 after one quarter, Ashland started the second frame on a 18-2 run, thanks to 16 straight points form super sophomores Alexis Robinson and Haley Sue Foutch.
Foutch finished with 14 points, while Robinson added nine.
Needless to say Orem was none too pleased with her team’s defensive effort during the stretch.
“The second quarter sucked,” she said. “I really couldn’t believe what I was watching, because I have watched us grow as the year has went on and we have gotten a lot better. But tonight in the second quarter it was like we gave up or quit.”
Fleming County (12-10) played much better in the second half, outscoring Ashland 29-25, but it was not nearly enough.
Shayla Robinson led the Panthers in scoring with 14.
Ashland (18-5) was led by senior Madison Jones, who finished with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field.
More of a pass-first player, Bradley wishes she would look for her shot more.
“I wish she would shoot more,” he said. “She is so passing-minded, and she is a great passer, but we need her to score like that, especially in the tournament.”
Sydney Cullop notched a double-double for the Kittens with 11 points and 13 rebounds.