ASHLAND Ashland didn’t have its regular mojo in the first half of Saturday’s game with Woodford County.
Passes didn’t have the usual zip, they settled for the first shot that came their way and trailed the Yellowjackets 21-20.
“I thought we wanted to play hard, but I think we were in quicksand,” said Ashland coach Jason Mays. “We only scored 20 points in the first half and that’s not who we are.”
Of the many attributes of this undefeated Tomcat team, they found another one: They are coachable.
Mays made three halftime adjustments and the Tomcats were textbook performers in the second half and defeated Woodford County 68-49 before another big crowd at Anderson Gym.
It was the 14th consecutive victory and Ashland puts that streak on the line against defending state champion Trinity on Tuesday night in Lexington at Transylvania University. The Shamrocks handed the Tomcats their last loss in the 2019 Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals.
To dispose of Woodford County the Tomcats were able to spread the floor in the second half, allowing for the extra passes and turning freshman Colin Porter loose. He finished with 27 points, including 13 during a third-quarter blitz that tilted the game in Ashland’s favor.
“Colin Porter doesn’t flinch,” Mays said. “If he misses a shot, it doesn’t matter. He was a monster in the second half.”
The Tomcats’ highlight passing game was non-existent in the first half as Woodford County turned them into a quick-shooting team. They mostly settled for 3-point shots – many of them good looks but slightly off the mark – and had only a pair of 2-point baskets, both from Porter.
But spreading the floor in the second half opened it up for everyone and allowed the Tomcats to share the ball, a strength of this team, as four of the five starters finished in double figures. Ashland was 9-of-20 from long range.
Defensively, Mays said he used a press that took the ball out of the hands of point guard Anthony Tabor, essentially making him ineffective in getting Woodford County into its offensive sets.
“There weren’t many times in the second half that he initiated the offense,” the coach said.
The third adjustment was a delay game with about 4 ½ minutes remaining that not only fatigued but frustrated Woodford County as it tried to follow the ball that was being zipped around them.
“I wouldn’t call it a delay, but we didn’t want to score for 20 seconds,” Mays said. “We’d score, get a stop, and then do it again. Score, get a stop, and then do it again. They didn’t want to guard (chase) us.”
The game was tougher than many expected and at halftime Mays wasn’t sure which way it was going to go. Woodford County’s length presented problems and Tabor was the trigger man.
“The game was mentally draining,” he said. “I told the coaches, ‘If we don’t disrupt 13 (Tabor), I don’t have a Plan B.’ That’s a good basketball team.”
Tomcat sophomore Cole Villers, who was knocked in the head and battled a headache throughout the game, battled for 14 points and eight rebounds. Ethan Hudson scored a dozen and had five assists and Ethan Sellars added 10 points. Porter stuffed his stat line with six rebounds and four assists along with the 27 points.
Ashland was tied at 27 after Woodford County post man Hunter Penn scored on consecutive possessions early into the third quarter but Porter drilled a 3-pointer to trigger a 17-4 run for a 44-31 lead. Hudson and Justin Bradley buried triples in the surge.
“They did a good job of being coached,” Mays said of the Tomcats, who were feeling the effects of five games in nine days. Villers (headache), Bradley (blisters) and Porter (calf cramps) were reeling after the game.
Woodford County (7-6) had a big game from Penn, a 6-7 post player who had 16 points and eight rebounds. The Yellowjackets were outscored 48-28 in the second half.
WOODFORD CO. FG FT REB TP
Myles 2-9 0-0 3 4
Tabor 3-7 5-8 2 12
Courtney 4-10 3-4 3 11
Gardner 2-2 0-0 2 4
Penn 8-12 0-2 8 16
Gill 0-1 0-0 0 0
Smiley 1-2 0-0 1 2
Blevins 0-1 0-0 2 0
White 0-1 0-0 1 0
TOTALS 20-45 8-14 22 49
FG Pct.: 44.4. FT Pct.: 57.1. 3-point FGs: 1-6 (Myles 0-1, Tabor 1-2, Courtney 0-1, Gill 0-1, White 0-1). PF: 19. Fouled out – Gill.
ASHLAND FG FT REB TP
Porter 9-15 7-8 6 27
Sellars 4-7 0-0 3 10
Villers 4-10 4-4 8 14
Bradley 1-2 0-0 3 3
Hudson 3-6 4-6 4 12
Atkins 0-0 0-0 0 0
Conway 0-0 0-0 0 0
Phillips 0-0 0-0 1 0
Gillum 1-2 0-1 0 2
TOTALS 22-42 15-19 26 68
FG Pct.: 52.4. FT Pct.: 78.9. 3-point FGs: 9-20 (Porter 2-4, Sellars 2-5, Villers 2-5, Bradley 1-1, Hudson 2-5). PF: 17. Fouled out – None.
WOODFORD CO. 13 8 12 16 — 49
ASHLAND 12 8 24 24 — 68
Officials: Mark Lester, Joe Coldiron and Phil Porter.