Ashland used constant pressure and an unexpected rebounding edge to break away from a neck-and-neck battle. The Tomcats outrebounded the Panthers 42-29, which included 18 offensive boards.
“We’ve not been plus-13 all season,” Biggs said.
Kelly said allowing Ashland to bang the offensive glass was more of a factor than its depth.
“We wanted them to go one-and-done. It didn’t happen,” Kelly said. “It seemed like if their boys couldn’t stick it back, they would kick it out and, boom, hit a three.”
Ashland shot 53.1 percent in the second half, and had seven more shots at the basket than Fleming County in the span.
Chris Johnson added 15 points for the Tomcats on 6-of-7 shooting off the bench. Ryan Whetsel chipped in 11 and Cody Withrow had 10. Will Skaggs dished nine assists.
Fleming County’s Josh Gray led the Panthers (15-13) with 19 points, including two 3-pointers to spark an 8-3 spurt to start the game. The Panthers led by as many as six.
“We had an experienced group in terms of seniors, but we had rookie seniors. They didn’t have much experience at this stage,” Kelly said.
It was the first trip Fleming County had made to the regional tournament since joining the 16th Region in 2005.
Ashland (22-6) will play in the semifinals for the fourth straight season, dating back to Biggs’ first year.
The semifinal matchup with East Carter tonight could come down to tempo.
“We can’t let (Colt) Barnhill establish an inside game early,” Johnson said. “We have to press our style of play on them.”
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.