ASHLAND Ashland played several close games in the 2021 portion of their rugged schedule. The 2022 part of their season took a different route. Using a suffocating defense and torrid 3-point shooting, the Tomcats cruised to a 94-41 win over Spring Valley on Wednesday night at James A. Anderson Gymnasium.
The Tomcats raced to an early 10-2 lead behind nine points from seniors Ethan Sellars and Cole Villers. The early run prompted Spring Valley coach Rick Chaffin to call two timeouts in the game’s first three minutes. It did very little to slow the Tomcats’ early momentum.
Following the second timeout, Sellars and freshman Zander Carter combined for all 17 points in a run that stretched the Tomcat lead to 27-4 at the end of one quarter of play.
Chaffin knew what his inexperienced team would be facing Wednesday night.
“We looked at tonight’s game as a learning experience,” Chaffin said. “Ashland plays the game the way it should be played. Their defensive pressure is just overwhelming for a young team. They are just very hard to guard as well with their back cuts and 3-point shooting.”
The second quarter was more of the same from the Tomcats. Sellars and Carter continued to do most of the damage as the Tomcats extended the lead to 45-9 on a Carter 3. The two combined for 28 points in the opening half. The Timberwolves finished the half on a 6-1 run to cut the Tomcat lead to 46-15 at the half. Ashland finished the half with 14 assists and only one turnover.
Coach Jason Mays said it showed how unselfish the Tomcats are on the floor.
“The way we play makes our staff very proud,” Mays said. “On the very first possession of the game, Colin passed up a 3 to get Ethan an open 3. During the next timeout, all I said was Colin passed up a good shot for a great shot. That is just who we are. It is high school basketball, and you have to coach who you have personnel wise.”
“We shoot the ball really well and have great point guards,” he added. “I actually feel like we have two good point guards. I personally think Sellers would be the best point guard in the region if Colin wasn’t here. These guys understand that their shot is our shot. We do drills every day in practice saying, ‘one more, one more’ to make that extra pass and it has taken root with our team.”
The 3-point shooting in the second half was even better for the Tomcats. Sellars and Porter combined for five more treys in the third frame as the Tomcats extended their lead to 75-29 at the end of three quarters. Tucker Conway, Asher Adkins, and LaBryant Strader each added two more 3s apiece in the half as the Tomcats finished the game an amazing 20 for 35 from trey land. The Tomcat reserves outscored Spring Valley, 19-12, in the final stanza to give Ashland a dominating 53-point win.
Chaffin hopes his program can use Ashland as a model for where they want to be in the future.
“This is the team and program we want to be,” Chaffin said. “This is the premier program in the state of Kentucky. They have great tradition, great kids, and kids that work. It was great experience for us. I told my kids, if we can learn from this, it will make us better.”
Mays was pleased with his team’s defensive effort as they forced 14 turnovers and held the Timberwolves to 35% shooting.
“We have a lot of people say they didn’t know you were that good defensively,” Mays said. “Our opponents field goal percentage is a little too high for me, but we have played very good offensive teams. I do think the way we get in passing lanes, choke reversals, and deny passes has helped us to defend the 3 very well. We just have to continue to get better against straight line drives against elite competition.”
The Tomcats (10-4) were led by Sellars with 27 points on 11 of 14 shooting. Carter scored 14 points in 13 minutes, draining all three of his 3-point attempts. Porter added 13 points and six assists.
Spring Valley, now 1-4, was led by Luke Larsen with nine points.
Another challenging weekend awaits the Tomcats as 15th region favorite Pikeville and defending state champion Highlands visit Friday and Saturday.
Mays knows those two teams can play.
“I think Pikeville is the most talented team in the mountains,” Mays said. “Highlands has two or three college-level guards. Both teams have some college-level players and I think our fans are accustomed to what good basketball is. There is going to be some really good basketball here this weekend, weather permitting.”
S. VALLEY FG FT REB TP
Adkins 1-5 0-0 4 3
Grayson 1-5 2-2 2 4
Hazlett 2-9 0-0 7 4
Smith 4-9 0-0 2 8
Larsen 3-6 3-4 2 9
Abercrombie 0-4 0-0 0 0
Parsons 2-3 0-0 3 4
Mosser 3-7 0-0 0 6
Caldwell 1-1 0-0 0 2
TOTAL 17-49 5-6 23 41
FG Pct: 34.7. FT Pct: 83.3. 3-point FGs: 2-11 (Parsons 1-1, Adkins 1-2, Hazlett 0-3, Smith 0-1, Larsen 0-1, Abercrombie 0-2) PF: 4. Turnovers: 14.
ASHLAND FG FT REB TP
Sellars 11-14 0-0 3 27
Conway 2-3 0-0 3 6
Villers 3-6 0-0 3 7
Carter 5-5 1-2 4 14
Porter 5-12 0-0 4 13
Mayor 0-0 0-0 1 0
C. Davis 1-2 0-0 0 2
Adkins 3-5 0-0 1 8
T. Davis 2-4 0-0 1 5
Williams 0-0 0-0 2 0
Strader 3-4 0-0 1 8
Thacker 1-1 1-2 1 4
TOTAL 36-56 2-4 29 94
FG Pct. 64.3. FT Pct: 50.0. 3-point FGs: 20-35 (Sellars 5-8, Carter 3-3, Porter 3-7, Conway 2-3, Strader 2-3, Adkins 2-3, Thacker 1-1, Villers 1-4, T. Davis 1-2, C. Davis 0-1) PF: 7. Turnovers: 4.
S. VALLEY 4 11 14 12 — 41
ASHLAND 27 19 29 19 — 94
Officials: Kenny Kegley, Jeff Adkins, Mike Ginn.