ASHLAND Jaxon Smith initially lost control of the ball as he drove the lane in the final seconds.
Lincoln County’s senior guard got it back. And he got a call.
Smith drew a foul with 2.2 seconds to go in a tie game for third place of the Ashland Invitational Tournament against Bowling Green on Thursday night at Anderson Gym. Sandwiched around a timeout, he made both free throws.
The Purples’ Tanner Buttry got a clean look at a 3 from three-quarters court for the win, but it found only glass as the Patriots prevailed, 64-62.
Lincoln County thus won a game it never led until the 3:02 mark. Bowling Green owned a 12-point lead in the closing moments of the first frame, but the Patriots chipped away and were within five by intermission.
“We did a better job defensively of playing hard,” Lincoln County coach Jeff Jackson said of the rally. “We did some things better defensively in spots and took better care of the ball. We hung in there and battled and beat a really, really good basketball team.”
Colton Ralston scored 18 points, connecting on four 3-pointers, for the Patriots (11-3). Tramane Alcorn and Evan Smith — making his first appearance in about five games, Jackson estimated, after a bout with mononucleosis — added 12 apiece.
Buttry tallied 27 points on five treys for the Purples (10-2).
Ralston’s corner 3 at the 3:48 mark forged a 56-all tie — the game’s first since 0-0.
Lincoln County’s Clayton Davis cleared an offensive board on the next trip and added two free throws, and Bowling Green never led again, although it did tie the game on Elijah Starks’s and-1 down low with 41.8 seconds to play.
But the Patriots had the ball in the final seconds, and Smith made the most of it.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” Jackson said. “We made plays when we had to.”
Lincoln County started the season 9-0 before dropping three of four before Thursday’s win. The Patriots get 6-foot-8 sophomore William Bishop eligible next week in addition to Smith’s return, which excites Jackson.
“It gave us a chance to play some other kids,” he said of the shorthandedness. “They’ve all showed up and played well, and it’s added some depth to our bench. Hopefully we’ll be better for it.”
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B. GREEN 24 13 13 12 — 62
LINCOLN CO. 13 19 14 18 — 64
Bowling Green (62) — Lin 5, Buttry 27, M. Wardlow 9, Ritter 3, E. Stsrks 8, Gurley 4, Bailey 6, D. Starks 3. 3-Pt. FG: 7 (Buttry 5, Lin, D. Starks). FT: 16-25. Fouls: 13.
Lincoln County (64) — Alcorn 12, Jax. Smith 5, E. Smith 12, Sims 9, Ralston 18, Cla. Davis 8. 3-Pt. FG: 11 (Ralston 4, Alcorn 2, E. Smith 2, Sims 2, Cla. Davis). FT: 7-9. Fouls: 18.