LEXINGTON It may have been the most beautiful ugly win that Ashland coach Jason Mays can ever remember.

With their trademark shooting abandoning them, the undefeated Tomcats had to find another way to tame Trinity on Tuesday night.

They did it with grit and defense, claiming a 50-43 win for their 15th consecutive victory – equaling the fourth-best start in school history – in a game played on the campus of Transylvania University.

Ashland was never comfortable from behind the arc, missing the first seven attempts and going only 7-for-23 for the game. The misfires led to some defensive lapses, especially in the first half, but clutch play from freshman Colin Porter and sophomore Cole Villers secured the victory.

It also had some measure of revenge for Ashland’s last loss – a 60-30 pummeling at the hands of Trinity in the Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals last March. The Shamrocks went on to win the state championship in runaway fashion.

“My sin tonight was I was too prideful,” Mays said. “They stomped us last year and everybody knew they were going to stomp us. Now that is flushed out of our system. That was the whole purpose of scheduling that game. We won’t play anybody else that’s the defending state champion.”

Ethan Sellars, who scored a dozen and was one of three Tomcats with two triples, said last year’s loss “left a bad taste in our mouth. This was an ugly win.”

Ashland seemed to be trying too hard, with open looks from the 3-point line clanging off the rim. As the missed shots mounted, the anxiousness affected the defense.

“Our lack of offensive sexiness made us play bad defensively and I get it,” Mays said. “They gave us shots and we just don’t hit them.”

Trinity coach Mike Szabo said with Ashland it’s “pick your poison.”  So the Shamrocks chose to let the Tomcats launch.

“They missed some shots early,” he said. “We missed some rotations and some blockouts and then couldn’t get shots to fall in the last three or four minutes.”

Trinity led 23-21 at the half with the Tomcats going only 3-for-12 from 3-point range. It didn’t improve much with a 4-for-11 showing in the second half.

Villers had a steal-and-score as the third quarter ended to pull the Tomcats within 36-35.

The seven-point winning margin was the biggest lead for either team. Ashland trailed for much of the game, taking its first lead since late in the first quarter when Porter pulled up and banked in a shot high off the glass to make it 37-36 and the Tomcats never trailed again.

Trinity stayed close to the end but couldn’t get any turnovers or defensive stops down the stretch. Villers made two free throws with 10 seconds to play that sealed the win.

“He played great,” Sellars said of Villers. “He really rebounded so well. That steal was big but so was his rebounding.”

Villers collected 10 points and 12 rebounds, Sellars scored 12 and Porter added 13 points.

“He’s a really nice point guard,” Szabo said of Porter. “He has outstanding pace to his game and he can lead his team well. He has excellent vision.”

Trinity (8-9), which graduated all five starters from the championship team, was led by Zach Stahlman with 15 points.

Even though Tuesday’s game was at Transy, the stands were full of Tomcat fans cheering. Ashland even brought along PA man Chuck Rist.

TRINITY    FG    FT    REB    TP

Cole    0-1    0-0    0    0

Cox    1-5    0-0    3    2

Ashford    1-4    0-0    0    3

Hodge    1-9    0-0    5    2

McClain    0-0    0-0    0    0

Stahlman    6-12    2-2    6    15

Franklin    5-13    0-0    3    12

Mitchell    2-2    0-0    3    4

Walls    0-0    0-0    0    0

Brian    2-2    1-2    5    5

Team            2

TOTALS    18-48    3-4    25    43

FG Pct.: 37.5. FT Pct.: 75.0. 3-point FGs: 4-14 (Cole 0-1, Cox 0-3, Ashford 1-2, Hodge 0-1, Stahlman 1-2, Franklin 2-2). PF: 13. Fouled out: None.

ASHLAND    FG    FT    REB    TP

Villers    3-11    2-2    12    10

Bradley    3-6    0-0    5    8

Sellars    5-8    909    3    12

Hudson    2-7    2-2    3    7

Porter    6-11    1-2    4    13

Gillum    0-0    0-0    0    0

Phillips    0-2    0-0    1    0

Atkins    0-0    0-0    0    0

Team            3

TOTALS    19-45    5-6    28    50

FG Pct.: 42.2. FT Pct.: 83.3. 3-point FGs: 7-23 (Villers 2-6, Bradley 2-4, Sellars 2-5, Hudson 1-5, Phillips 0-1). PF: 8. Fouled out: None.

TRINITY    11    12    13    7    —    43

ASHLAND    8    13    14    15    —    50

Officials: Drew Ransdell, Matthew Stewart, Mike Webster.

Recommended for you