MOREHEAD The way Jason Mays described Ashland's predicament on Saturday afternoon sounded a little bit like a precalculus word problem.
"If you'd have said, (Colin Porter's) gonna foul out, he's not gonna be healthy when he is playing, Cole (Villers) isn't gonna be your leading scorer and you're gonna trail 70, 85% of the game and Hunter (Gillum)'s gonna play the minutes he played, I'd have been like, holy ... there's no way we win this game," the Tomcats' coach said.
And that didn't even take into account the fact that Ashland's deficit to Rowan County was as high as 11 points in the fourth quarter.
And yet, the Tomcats won their third consecutive 16th Region Tournament title, knocking off the Vikings, 62-58, at Ellis T. Johnson Arena.
Ashland did it behind 22 points from Ethan Sellars, including all seven of the Tomcats' points in overtime, and 16 from Villers.
Villers was 1 for 6 from 3-point range through three quarters, then made three triples in the fourth frame -- including one that put Ashland ahead with 39 seconds to go.
Villers was named the region tournament MVP.
But Rowan County, which had led by double digits just seven minutes of game time earlier, wasn't letting go. KABC 16th Region Player of the Year Mason Moore received an inbounds pass, bobbled it, retreated into the left corner, double-clutched, waited for two Tomcats to sail past, and released.
And drained it. Overtime, 55-all.
"He does what he does and just makes plays," Rowan County coach Shawn Thacker said of Moore. "Just a hell of a game."
Mays's response was bemusement.
"I smiled and I said, this is who I'm coaching. This is who we are," he said. "We're hitting that shot or somebody else is hitting that shot on us. ... What better time to go through these things than right now, as you go into every game, survive and advance?"
Ashland's Sean Marcum and Moore traded blocked shots on each team's first possession of the extra session.
Sellars nailed a 3 with 1:31 to go. Nathan Goodpaster countered from the perimeter for the Vikings 24 seconds later.
That was all the scoring until Sellars finished it off with four free throws in the final 39.2 seconds of overtime.
"I just talked to myself that God's got me," Sellars said, adding with a grin, "and the rims kinda helped me out a lot."
Down two, Rowan County missed two charity tosses with 18.9 seconds left. Then Ashland missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 10.3 seconds to go, but Marcum chased down the board. The ball made its way to Sellars, who was fouled at :06.2 and made both ends of the bonus.
Marcum, listed at 6-foot-8, missed most of the first half with foul trouble and sat a good chunk of the third quarter as well. Ashland turned to him down the stretch, with Porter having fouled out and the Vikings making hay inside, and Marcum cleared his first five rebounds of the afternoon in the fourth quarter before the aforementioned board in the closing moments of overtime that led to Sellars's sealer.
"I got in a flow," Marcum said. "I had a few good boards and that really helped me feel in the moment better. Got my rhythm going."
Added Villers, cracking up: "When you drive and you see a 6-7 ginger in the lane with long hair, it's gonna affect your shot. And we were struggling rebounding. We played a two-big lineup with him and Ryan (Atkins), and it worked out great. It ended up winning us the game."
That lineup was born from Porter fouling out with 6:24 to play. Ashland had to figure out how to go without its facilitator, strong on-ball defender and, to that point, leading scorer.
"I knew I had two scorers in Selly and Cole, and I was gonna ride them offensively," Mays said, "and I was hoping Hunter's ball pressure and Ryno (Atkins) and Sean on the glass were gonna help us get stops, and I was gonna hope and pray Cole and Selly hit some shots. And I'll be daggoned if that's exactly how it played out."
Rowan County (15-4) went ahead on Moore's and-1 with 1:13 to go in the second quarter and stayed there until a Villers free throw with 2:41 to go in regulation. The Vikings' largest lead was 11, when Goodpaster's driving shot carried over the front rim and down eight seconds into the fourth period.
But Ashland outscored Rowan County 18-5 over the next six minutes and change to win a game that looked lost.
How did the Tomcats stay calm -- again, after nearly seeing their now-37-game winning streak against region competition end -- again?
"We use this word a lot, probably too much, but togetherness," Villers said. "We all know what we have in each other, and we all have the same goal, to glorify God, so we're playing for a bigger cause."
Moore and Goodpaster scored 16 points apiece and Alderman dropped in 12 for Rowan County.
"Just hate it for my kids," Thacker said. "Like I told them, this was their turn to go get one, and they won't get that chance again. Mason, I would have liked to see him end his career on Rupp Arena's floor, but (Ashland) got the championship belt and they had kids who made plays.
"We answered some of it back, but I feel like if we make our free throws, it might be a different story. At the end of the day, I think that was the biggest difference in the game."
The Vikings were 6 for 14 from the foul line.
Porter added 15 points for Ashland (20-4), which advances to the Sweet Sixteen to meet Knox Central, the 13th Region champion, on Thursday night.
"We knew Rowan was great this year and we had to work for it," Villers said, "and we are still learning our roles. We're not done growing as a team. So it was really difficult, and it was a great win."
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16th Region All-Tournament Team
Kirk Pence (Raceland), Tyler Buckhanon (Bath County), Kolby McCann (Lewis County), Bryson Dickerson (Elliott County), Rheyce DeBoard (Boyd County), Trevor Callahan (West Carter), Tyson Webb (West Carter), Gage Leadingham (West Carter), Colin Porter (Ashland), Jordan Justice (Rowan County), Ethan Sellars (Ashland), Robby Todd (Rowan County), Chase Alderman (Rowan County), Mason Moore (Rowan County), Cole Villers (Ashland). MVP: Cole Villers (Ashland).
ROWAN CO. FG FT REB TP
D. Maxey 1-2 0-0 1 2
Alderman 6-8 0-2 8 12
Moore 6-16 1-3 4 16
Goodpaster 7-9 1-3 1 16
Todd 0-6 2-4 3 2
Justice 3-5 0-0 1 8
Gardner 0-0 0-0 2 0
Collins 0-2 2-2 1 2
TOTAL 23-48 6-14 23 58
FG Pct.: 47.9. FT Pct.: 42.9. 3-pointers: 6-12 (Moore 3-6, Justice 2-2, Goodpaster 1-2, Todd 0-1, Collins 0-1). PF: 11. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 8.
ASHLAND FG FT REB TP
Carter 1-5 0-0 3 2
Porter 5-9 3-3 3 15
Sellars 6-13 5-6 5 22
Villers 5-16 2-4 7 16
Marcum 0-0 1-2 6 1
Atkins 1-1 0-1 4 2
Gillum 2-3 0-0 1 4
TOTAL 20-47 11-16 30 62
FG Pct.: 42.6. FT Pct.: 68.8. 3-pointers: 11-26 (Sellars 5-6, Villers 4-13, Porter 2-5, Carter 0-2). PF: 14. Fouled out: Porter. Turnovers: 11.
ROWAN CO. 14 16 13 12 3 -- 58
ASHLAND 12 12 10 21 7 -- 62
Officials: Brian Johnson, Benny Campbell and Larry Thacker.