ASHLAND The subtle sound of sneakers squeaking inside of Anderson Gymnasium was a welcome sound Sunday afternoon when Ashland and Boyd County reconvened to conclude their first district matchup this season.
High humidity inside the building was the result of an unseasonably warm January night mixed with a crowd pushing close to the posted 1,600 capacity limit, creating a condition game officials deemed unsafe with 1:04 to play in the third quarter on Saturday night.
“The bottom line was, the right decision was made,” Ashland coach Jason Mays said. “People can argue about when that decision should have been made, but bottom line was, it was only going to be called a minute earlier or a minute later. I think our game officials were the ultimate professionals and I think both schools, Pete Fraley and his administration and Mark Swift and our administration, did a great job of leading through that situation last night. No player got injured and that was the number one goal.”
Mays was familiar with the situation at hand after a similar event occurred during his college coaching days.
“When I was at Georgetown College, we played in a gym that was built in 1925,” Mays said. “Same thing, humid winter day. You know, 75 degrees in February, go figure. It was a packed house and the humidity just caused the floor to be slick.”
In the end, the floor turned out to only prolong the inevitable, another Ashland win, as the Tomcats defeated Boyd County 71-60, sending the Lions’ fans to the exits to the tunes of “Slip Sliding Away” and “Electric Slide” blasting over the PA system speakers.
What was a close affair through much of the first half looked to have turned into a blowout in the making out of the locker room after a 17-0 Ashland run swelled the lead to 20. Boyd County’s first bucket of the second half did not come until 6:44 had elapsed from the clock, putting the Lions in a hole they simply could not get out of.
“If you've been around this game long enough, there is going to a time or a game that what happened to us last night in the third quarter, happens,” Boyd County coach Randy Anderson said. “There’s not enough timeouts to get it stopped. There’s not enough substitutions to get it stopped. But hopefully, we are learning. We came out and had a whole different idea of what we wanted to do in the second half than we did in the first half and it was one of those things, shots wouldn’t fall, and they make some 3s. Then all of a sudden, they sped us up and that’s just some things we have to learn from.”
Down 45-29, Boyd County appeared to get a reprieve when Colin Porter picked up his fourth foul. However, Hunter Gillum stepped to the point and made an instant impact with four points and a rebound in 20 seconds.
When play resumed on Sunday, Mays elected to go back to the player he felt helped stake the sizable Tomcats lead.
“We wouldn’t have won today if it wasn’t for Hunter Gillum last night when Colin got into foul trouble,” Mays said. “Colin didn’t play his best game, but he’s a freshman and this was his first Boyd game. But Colin is unflappable.”
However, Porter’s fourth-quarter line could argue he played one of his best quarters of the season, dropping 17 of his game-high 22 points in the frame.
“We did two things for him, we spread the floor and let him get to the rim or we ball-screened for him,” Mays said. “You give Colin credit there late, but you don’t get there without Hunter and what he did last night.”
Porter stuffed the stat sheet with seven rebounds, six assists and went 10 of 12 from the charity stripe, a deciding factor of why Mays went back to the freshman in the fourth.
“When I subbed in the fourth quarter, I pulled Hunter in and told him the reason I didn’t play him in the fourth quarter was because I knew they was going to hammer him, and Colin is a really good free throw shooter and Hunter is average,” Mays said. “Hunter is working on that coming out of football where he hasn’t touched a basketball for three to four months. Colin made his free throws and wants the ball in his hands.”
Mays quickly defended the decision to stay with Gillum when play resumed.
“We started Hunter because he had earned that,” he said. “Colin and Huddie (Hudson) were on the bench when we made that run, so I started the same guys, because they had earned that right because they had gotten us there.”
Gillum finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
Porter’s pressure in the fourth was quickly seen after a pair of back-to-back drives to the rack in 15 seconds. But the Lions were not going away without a fight as a Blake Stewart bucket sparked a 12-2 Boyd County run to pull to within eight midway through the quarter. But the Tomcats responded with an Ethan Sellars triple from the wing off an assist from Porter to silence the run and energy from the Boyd County crowd.
“In my 100 years of doing this, this is the first time we’ve had to stop and come back the next day,” Anderson said. “It was good though because it made us really take a step back and look at ourselves in the mirror. I thought we responded well today and came in here ready to play. Eighteen down, we could’ve walked away from this saying, who cares, it's only nine minutes. They cared and I’m very pleased with their effort.”
Mays described the situation Boyd County faced Sunday afternoon was a chance to play with nothing else to lose.
“I told our kids, from a sports psychology standpoint, literally, our backs are starting against the wall,” Mays said while pointing to the baseline where the Tomcats started with the ball. “We started right there next to the wall. (Boyd County) had nothing to lose. They throw the whole kitchen sink at you trying to force turnovers and trying to get defensively to offensively. We had the whole weight of their program coming at us for nine minutes. I knew we were going to make some mistakes, but we weathered the storm.”
Stewart led Boyd County with 19 points and broke former Lions great Frank Lee's steals record (308) with a pair of swipes in the fourth. He also is now the all-time leading player in games played, 131, knocking off Casey Sparks. Austin Gibbs had 16 points and 13 rebounds, including six offensive.
“We guarded better in the second half,” Mays said. “We pressed better, and we guarded better and stopped giving them so many offensive rebounds. When the game was suspended, they were at a 48 percent offensive rebounding percentage which means of all their shots, they were getting a second chance on nearly half of them, which is crazy. Then today, they had fresh legs and we struggled to guard the drive a little bit today.”
Round two will commence on Jan. 25 in Summit when the Lions play host to the Tomcats.
“Ashland is good,” Anderson said. “I know you aren’t supposed to say that being from Boyd County, but they are good. They are balanced and they’ve got really good skill people. It’s our job to make them unbalanced and hopefully we gained a bunch off this came because we get them again in two weeks.”
BOYD CO. FG FT REB TP
Cisco 1-4 2-2 1 4
Stewart 9-20 0-3 7 19
Gibbs 6-7 4-6 13 16
Newsome 4-10 1-2 6 10
Webb 3-11 0-0 6 6
Walter 1-3 0-0 3 3
Deboard 1-2 0-0 0 2
Ellis 0-1 0-0 0 0
TOTAL 25-58 3-14 36 60
FG Pct.: 43.1. FT Pct.: 53.8. 3-pointers: 3-14 (Webb 0-2, Stewart 1-5, Newsome 1-3, Cisco 0-2, Walter 1-2). PF: 17. Turnovers: 9. Fouled out: None. Technical foul: Gibbs.
ASHLAND FG FT REB TP
Villers 4-11 2-2 6 13
Hudson 3-7 0-0 1 8
Porter 6-13 10-12 7 22
Sellars 3-7 0-0 1 8
Bradley 3-6 0-0 5 7
Atkins 0-0 1-2 1 1
Phillips 0-1 0-0 0 0
Gillum 5-8 2-2 6 12
TOTAL 24-53 8-26 27 71
FG Pct.: 45.3. FT Pct.: 83.3. 3-pointers: 8-26 (Porter 0-4, Sellars 2-5, Villers 3-6, Phillips 0-1, Bradley 1-4, Gillum 0-1, Hudson 2-5). PF: 16. Turnovers: 5. Fouled out: None. Technical Foul: Bradley.
BOYD CO. 16 13 6 25 — 60
ASHLAND 20 12 19 20 — 71
Officials: Laine Hughes, Davey Fields, Mikey Whisman.