ASHLAND A solid defensive effort paved the way for Cole Villers to score a momentous basket on Friday night.
The Ashland junior ignited a fast break midway though the third quarter after turning defense into offense and was rewarded with a layup for his 1,000th career point in a Tomcats uniform. Villers completed a three-point play in the process and led all scorers with 26 points in a 76-58 win over rival Russell at Anderson Gym.
“I am glad that I got it here at Ashland,” Villers said. “The atmosphere is better. It’s just a blessing from God. After I tore my ACL, He has restored everything better than I could ever imagine. I am glad I put my faith and trust in Him and He has pushed me through.”
Villers joined two exclusive clubs on his big night after his name will be forever cemented into Ashland lore. He still ranks third on the family list with brothers, Christian and Chase, who reached the 1,000-point mark during their time as a Tomcat.
Villers said his brothers have been an inspiration that helped guide him to his own special moment.
“They brought me to the game of basketball,” Villers said. “Without them, I don’t know where I would be. Day in and day out, I was playing and working out with them. To be on the list with them, it means a lot. We are family. Now, I will try and catch Christian and Chase.”
After eclipsing the scoring mark, Villers responded with consecutive baskets and finished with 15 points in the third quarter. A wing jumper gave Ashland its biggest lead at 65-33 heading into the fourth.
“It’s a moment that he will remember for the rest of his life,” Ashland coach Jason Mays said. “He is not done having those moments. One brother has over 1,300 points and another brother over 1,400 points. He is going to pass both of them. I mean that in a way where both of those brothers want nothing more than that to happen. It’s a very close knit and special family to our program. “
“Cole has never had a bad practice,” he continued. “When I got the job here in May of 2018, our first activity was a team camp. During the second game on the first day, he tears his ACL. He has never wavered. Our team turns around, we win the regional tournament and win a game at the state tournament. We took off at that point with Cole in the lead.”
The Red Devils settled in after the Tomcats scored the first eight points of the game. Griffin Downs completed a three-point play to cut the early deficit to 14-11.
Ashland held a 20-14 lead in the second frame before the Tomcats produced another offensive outburst. Ryan Atkins started it with an and-1. Colin Porter, Villers and Sean Marcum each followed with a bucket before the Tomcats finished off the spurt with sizzling steal and score.
Villers swiped a Russell pass, but before going out of bounds, he heaved it high to midcourt. It allowed Ethan Sellars to see Porter sprint past the defense. The junior tipped the ball out of midair ahead to Porter for a wide open layup.
The play highlighted a 15-0 Tomcats surge during the second quarter. Ashland only hit three shots from behind the arc — two came in the opening minutes of the game. The bulk of the team’s scoring was recorded in the paint and in transition.
“We had a basketball in cardio-intense environments this week (in practice),” Mays said. “We will continue to do that. That showed up tonight. We got in there, saw an opening and got buckets at the rim. They were high percentage shots. Sean Marcum is getting better every single game. I am really happy for him. He is enjoying playing basketball.”
The Tomcats saw their first action since an 83-57 setback at No. 1 Bowling Green last weekend. Villers said he and Porter missed a few days of practice this week after enduring muscle strains.
Ashland (7-2) kept up the pressure in the second half. Once Villers achieved the milestone, it allowed him to refocus and close out the third quarter strong.
“It was a big rivalry game and you want to win,” Villers said. “You want to play well but you are stressing to get the nine points (to reach 1,000). That’s not who I am. I don’t stress about points and it’s not what I care about. Once I got it, a big weight was off my shoulders.”
The Red Devils accumulated 22 turnovers during the contest. Ashland outscored their opponents 49-22 in the middle two quarters.
“They came out and hit a couple of shots early,” Russell coach Tom Barrick said. “I thought we came in with a solid game plan, but it was not good. It wasn’t good enough to beat them on their floor. We gave up too many interior shots. It’s hard to compete when you are giving up those quality shots.”
Russell mounted a charge with the first 16 points of the final frame but the Tomcats margin was to large to overcome.
Ashland had four players in double figures. Porter netted 14 points. Sellars added 13 and Marcum contributed 12.
Charlie Jachimczuk finished with 25 points for Russell (6-4). Brady Bell had 12.
“I thought our kids continued to compete,” Barrick said. “... I was really pleased with the way our kids responded. Charlie is a great competitor. He made some shots in the fourth quarter. That is the type of kid that he is. I have nothing but praise for him.”
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RUSSELL FG FT REB TP
Quinn 1-3 0-0 2 3
Jachimczuk 10-20 1-2 5 25
Bell 5-7 2-2 7 12
Doak 0-1 1-2 2 1
Downs 1-5 5-5 3 7
Blum 2-3 1-2 1 5
Patrick 2-2 1-2 1 5
Rose 0-1 0-0 2 0
TOTAL 21-48 11-15 25 58
FG Pct: 43.8. FT Pct: 73.3. 3-point FGs: 5-13 (Quinn 1-1, Jachimczuk 4-8, Bell 0-1, Downs 0-2, Rose 0-1) PF: 10. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 22.
ASHLAND FG FT REB TP
Carter 2-4 0-0 1 4
Porter 5-11 2-2 4 14
Sellars 6-11 0-0 2 13
Villers 10-17 6-6 6 26
Marcum 6-6 0-0 6 12
Atkins 2-3 1-1 1 5
Ashby 0-0 0-0 0 0
Conway 0-2 0-0 0 0
Gillum 1-6 0-0 3 2
Adkins 0-1 0-0 0 0
Freize 0-0 0-0 0 0
TOTAL 32-62 9-9 25 76
FG Pct: 51.6. FT Pct: 100.0 3-point FGs: 3-17 (Porter 2-4, Sellars 1-4, Villers 0-4, Carter 0-4, Conway 0-1) PF: 11. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 8.
RUSSELL 11 8 14 25 — 58
ASHLAND 16 24 25 11 — 76
Officials: Kenny Kegley, Jeremy Ruckel, Henry Bacon