ASHLAND Bill Bradley didn’t exactly want to flip Ashland’s defense on Tuesday night. But once he did, the Kittens flipped the switch.
Leading Rose Hill Christian by only four points in the waning moments of the third quarter, Ashland cranked up its defensive pressure to fuel a 24-7 game-ending run to pull away to a 59-38 victory at Charles Stewart Gymnasium.
Casey Wallenfelsz scored 17 points, Ella Sellars dropped in 14 and Carley Cullop and Jordan Rakes each tallied 10 points for Ashland. What’s more, Rakes, Sellars and Wallenfelsz each cracked double figures in the second half alone.
That run began when Ashland slapped on a press that created several trapping opportunities near the half-court stripe. The Lady Royals hung within four points on Baylee Stephens’s bucket down low with 1:44 to go in the third quarter and got possession back with a chance to climb even closer.
But the Kittens changed up their defense, created three straight Rose Hill turnovers and turned them into six unanswered points over the final 85 seconds of the third frame to grab a 10-point lead heading into the fourth.
Bradley credited Kittens assistant Matt Robinson for installing the particular press that gave the Lady Royals fits.
“That really turned the game around,” Bradley said. “That was our energizer tonight, but we hate to depend on that all the time because certain teams, we cannot do that against. We just gotta play better defense.
“But I liked the way we reacted the second half. I thought they got after it and the passing was great the second half. We’ll take a 20-point win, but we’d like to play better.”
Separated by 1.1 miles, Ashland’s public and evangelical private high schools hadn’t met in six years until Tuesday night. Resurgent Rose Hill, off to its best start through 12 games since 1999-2000, made the most of its shot at the Kittens (7-3, 2-2 64th District seeding)
Ashland grabbed a 9-0 lead out of the gate, but only a missed layup in the final minute of the first half kept the Lady Royals from leading at intermission. Bellamee Sparks’s transition layup capped a 7-0 run to close the half and lifted Rose Hill within 23-22 at the break.
“We looked flat starting off, went down 9-0,” Lady Royals coach Nick Karle said, “and we said, you know what, we’re gonna buckle down and compete. And it was a one-point game at halftime.”
Rose Hill committed 11 turnovers in the first half, but it forced 12 Kittens giveaways and made Ashland look generally out of sorts.
“I thought our halfcourt defense was really poor the first half,” Bradley said. “We usually get after it, and (Rose Hill) came out ready to play. Rose Hill did a great job taking it to us physically, especially the first half. They just beat us down, and we didn’t react very well to it, so we decided to start pressing the second half and trap.
“We talked about (pressing) from the get-go, but we gotta learn to play half-court defense man to man. We weren’t very good tonight.”
Ashland used high-percentage shots, largely generated by its defense, to correct that, shooting 16 for 27 (59.3%) in the second half. Rakes scored all 10 of her points in the second half, including consecutive transition layups to begin the fourth frame, and Sellars repeated that feat midway through the final quarter. Wallenfelsz also scored three buckets in the last 4:28.
“We were just more focused the second half,” Bradley said. “Took care of the ball and got after it more.”
Baylee Trimble made three 3-pointers and scored 13 points to lead Rose Hill (8-5, 1-1 district seeding), which out-rebounded Ashland 34-29.
Sparks added eight points and a game-high nine rebounds before fouling out on a charge call late in the third quarter.
“I thought we competed,” Karle said. “I think it was important that we competed and we didn’t back down. That’s what I was most proud of.
“I knew it was far-fetched for us to win this game, but I wanted to see some growth, and today, we showed growth.”
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ASHLAND FG FT REB TP
Cullop 3-7 2-5 5 10
Rakes 5-8 0-0 6 10
Sellars 7-12 0-0 5 14
L. Wallenfelsz 0-7 3-4 2 3
C. Wallenfelsz 7-9 0-0 1 17
Robinson 1-5 3-4 4 5
TOTAL 23-48 8-13 29 59
FG Pct.: 47.9. FT Pct.: 61.5. 3-pointers: 5-19 (C. Wallenfelsz 3-5, Cullop 2-4, Sellars 0-1, L. Wallenfelsz 0-6, Robinson 0-3). PF: 8. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 16.
ROSE HILL FG FT REB TP
Karle 1-12 3-6 4 5
B. Sparks 4-8 0-0 9 8
VanKeuren 2-6 0-0 0 6
Stephens 3-9 0-0 8 6
Trimble 5-12 0-0 3 13
Newell 0-1 0-0 4 0
Wright 0-0 0-0 0 0
TOTAL 15-48 3-6 34 38
FG Pct.: 31.3. FT Pct.: 50.0. 3-pointers: 5-13 (Trimble 3-5, VanKeuren 2-4, Karle 0-3, Stephens 0-1). PF: 12. Fouled out: B. Sparks. Turnovers: 22.
ASHLAND 17 6 18 18 — 59
ROSE HILL 8 14 9 7 — 38
Officials: Madison Jones, Dave Wheeler and Eddie Neel.