ASHLAND Cole Villers brought Ashland back from the brink on Saturday night and so under normal circumstances might have expected the last shot of overtime against Boyd County.
Tomcats coach Jason Mays went another direction, and that was fine with Villers, too.
"On any given night, we have the three or four clutchest players on the court, and I know Selly's one of them," Villers said.
Ashland's Ethan Sellars hit two tiebreaking free throws with 14.1 seconds to play and Villers made a steal on the other end to lock up a 54-52 Ashland victory over the Lions in Anderson Gym.
With Villers on the bench to begin the fourth quarter after picking up his fourth foul in the final minute of the third frame on an offensive foul, Boyd County extended a four-point lead to 10. Then Villers came back in and turned in six quick points -- on a transition layup and-1, followed by one of his four 3-pointers -- to jump-start the Tomcats' rally.
Villers had 23 points by the time Ashland took possession in the final minute of overtime. He lobbied for the last shot, Mays said, but Sellars had had success on a particular look -- he converted twice along the baseline in the fourth quarter -- and so the Tomcats went that way again.
"I think that's a good learning moment for Cole," Mays said. "He trusts Selly."
Sellars got the whistle on a Lions foul call and converted both charity tosses to put Ashland up two.
Villers did make the last defensive play. He identified the screen the Lions were using, figured out where the pass was going, left his man and jumped it.
"I was like, I might as well take the risk because he's not gonna throw a cross-court pass," Villers said, "so I just tried to jump the gap that I saw, and I got it."
So concluded another tightly contested Ashland-Boyd County game. The Tomcats pulled out their fifth consecutive win in the series, with the margin of the last three a combined 14 points.
"We could be playing each other in front of no crowd on the courthouse steps, and it would be a barn-burner," Mays said. "This is just gonna make us tougher. ... This game is special."
Concurred Villers: "You will never see a blowout game between Ashland and Boyd. They're always gonna be close."
Boyd County (1-2, 1-1 64th District seeding) led from the 6:57 mark of the first quarter until Ashland's Colin Porter drove for a game-tying and-1 with 2:11 to play in regulation. That culminated a 13-3 run for the Tomcats to climb out of a double-digit hole.
"It had a regional flavor to it," Boyd County coach Randy Anderson said of the game, "because early on, I like to get up and down and get into our flow and our motion. Tonight, it was hit by hit by hit. I kinda felt like I was at Morehead."
Ashland took its first lead with 1:30 to go in the fourth on two Porter free throws before Boyd County's Rheyce Deboard hit a charity toss with 1:19 to play to force overtime. Deboard drove the lane for a bucket with 47 seconds to go in the extra session to tie it again before Sellars untied it for good.
"I just told them in the locker room right now, it hurts. Supposed to," Anderson said. "But the bottom line is, we've got a really good team, and I felt like we battled for 36 minutes tonight.
"You just gotta learn to finish games and win. Same thing happened at Johnson Central on Thursday (in a 67-57 Lions loss), but we're getting closer. The tempo got really sped up at the end against Johnson Central. Tonight, I felt like it's getting there, that you have a chance to make a run."
Sellars scored 13 points and Porter chipped in 12 -- including three key free throws after he'd missed his first four -- for Ashland (2-1, 1-0 district seeding).
Deboard scored 15 points, Brad Newsome netted 12 and Carson Webb chipped in 10 for Boyd County, which had five different players collect at least five rebounds in out-boarding the Tomcats 36-24.
"They're the best offensive rebounding team, probably, in Kentucky. In Kentucky," Mays said of the Lions, repeating the last two words for emphasis. "I told (my team) at halftime -- I don't know how many offensive rebounds (Boyd County) had at halftime, I lied and I told them 12 -- I told them, this was the key to the game going into this. They knew they had to get tougher and block off and fight for every board. Every possession was a battle for a rebound in the second half, and that's what it took."
64th District seeding will only feature one matchup of each team against the other three this season. The Lions and Tomcats meet in a non-seeding outing on Jan. 30 in Summit.
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BOYD CO. FG FT REB TP
Meade 1-3 0-0 7 2
Webb 5-11 0-0 5 10
Newsome 5-8 2-2 1 12
Deboard 6-16 3-6 5 15
Gibbs 2-6 2-4 7 6
McNeil 0-0 0-0 1 0
Ellis 1-4 0-0 5 2
Walter 0-1 0-0 0 0
Hicks 1-1 0-0 0 3
Cumpton 1-2 0-0 0 2
TOTAL 22-52 7-12 36 52
FG Pct.: 42.3. FT Pct.: 58.3. 3-pointers: 1-7 (Hicks 1-1, Webb 0-2, Deboard 0-4). PF: 16. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 12.
ASHLAND FG FT REB TP
Carter 0-5 0-0 1 0
Marcum 1-3 0-1 2 2
Porter 4-17 3-7 2 12
Sellars 4-7 3-4 1 13
Villers 9-13 1-1 9 23
Atkins 2-3 0-0 6 4
Gillum 0-0 0-0 1 0
TOTAL 20-48 7-13 24 54
FG Pct.: 41.7. FT Pct.: 53.8. 3-pointers: 7-25 (Villers 4-7, Sellars 2-5, Porter 1-8, Marcum 0-1, Carter 0-4). PF: 15. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 9.
BOYD CO. 14 14 11 11 2 -- 52
ASHLAND 9 14 10 17 4 -- 54
Officials: Dave Fields, Kenny Huddleston and Charlie Graham.