(This is a computer simulation of the 2020 Kentucky High School Athletic Association Boys Sweet Sixteen that is not officially cancelled but not likely to happen. All game results are from the computer but the quotes are on me.)
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Ashland moved one step closer to finishing the perfect script.
The undefeated Tomcats mowed down Scott County, 78-52, in the Sweet Sixteen semifinals on Monday for their 36th consecutive victory.
Ashland plays Covington Catholic on Tuesday and will try to win its fifth state championship and first since 1961.
Covington Catholic defeated Owensboro Catholic 75-70 in the other semifinal.
“This is where we wanted to be,” said Ashland coach Jason Mays. “One more game, one more win. These guys have taken it one day and one game at a time since we played here last year. Now there’s only one more to get.”
The Tomcats had a little two-man game going against Scott County as freshman Colin Porter and sophomore Cole Villers combined for 53 points. Porter was turned loose on the Cardinals, driving for baskets, pulling up for short jumpers and drilling 3-pointers on the way to a season-high 31 points.
Villers added to his outstanding tournament with 22 points, 14 in the second half, on 6-for-10 shooting.
Those two combined to make 7 of 14 from behind the arc while the rest of the Tomcats were a collective 1-for-8.
“It was one of those nights, I can’t explain it,” said Porter, who took a season-high 19 shots. “They were overplaying me and it gave me some lanes to drive. When they started picking me up, I was able to kick some out to Cole. He was money tonight.”
“Not without your dimes, I wasn’t,” Villers said, referring to Porter’s five assists, all that went to him.
Most of the difference came in the second half when Ashland outscored Scott County, 41-19. The Tomcats went ahead for good at 23-20 on Justin Bradley’s corner three, but the Cardinals trailed only 37-33 at halftime.
Porter and Viller’s combined scoring total was more than Scott County had as a team.
“We knew Porter was capable of these kind of (scoring) games,” Mays said. “He does what the team needs to win and tonight that was scoring the ball.”
Ashland led 54-44 going into the fourth quarter but Scott County was out of gas. The Tomcats poured it on, outscoring the Cardinals 24-8 in the last eight minutes to win by a lopsided margin.
“It was a much closer game than the final score showed,” Mays said. “With have so much respect for Scott County’s program and what they’ve accomplished year after year.”
Covington Catholic, the Ninth Region champion, pulled away in the fourth quarter from Owensboro Catholic in the other semifinal.
It could be a record-setting night in Rupp Arena if Monday’s semifinals were any indication.
Ashland fans were lined up outside the arena three hours before the opening tip and were about 8,000 strong inside Rupp. The Tomcats are in the championship game for the first time since 1996 when Paintsville beat Ashland for the title.
Covington Catholic’s student section was in full throat and the fans easily filled their end zone. The Colonels won state titles in 2014 and 2018.
Announced attendance was 19,561.
Can Tomcats match 1928 record?
Ashland will be in the championship game for the ninth time and will be trying to match the Tomcats’ 37-0 record of 1928.
The state’s last undefeated state champion was Brewers in 1948.
That voice sounds familiar
Tomcat public address specialist Chuck Rist came to the game with wife Lynn as fans but when the regular Rupp Arena PA man Patrick Whitmer had to leave for an emergency 10 minutes before tipoff of the Ashland-Scott County game, he became a wanted man.
Rist was able to admirably fill in for both semifinal games.
The Tomcats felt right at home with Rist’s voicing booming through Rupp Arena.
Kimberly Phillips, who has followed the Tomcats’ season with her trusty camera, has made a big impression.
Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio likes her work and has offered her a job as a photographer for KSR. Phillips said she was flattered but turned him down on the offer.
“The Tomcats are the only team for me,” she said.
‘You’re both outta here!’
Two loyal Tomcat fans, Dave Kouns and Scott Walter, were ejected even before the Tomcats took the floor in Rupp Arena for the semifinal game.
They were at the concession stand when Kouns got into an argument with the concession’s counter worker about a lack of butter on his popcorn. When the altercation began to escalate, Walter stepped in and dropped the delicious Rupp Arena ice cream he’d waited 25 minutes in line to purchase. That sent him into a rage.
Security was called and both the Ashland fans were shown the door. They were told it would be OK to come back the next day if the Tomcats advanced. However, they were both banned from any more trips to the concession stand, which will obviously hurt sales drastically.
Kouns hadn’t missed a game all season.
Ashland 78, Scott County 52
Covington Catholic 75, Owensboro Catholic 70
ASHLAND (78) – Porter 12-19 3-3 31, Bradley 2-7 0-0 5, Hudson 1-6 2-2 4, Villers 6-10 7-8 22, Sellars 3-4 0-0 6, Adkins 1-2 0-0 2, Conway 0-3 0-0 0, Gillum 3-5 0-0 6, Phillips 1-1 0-0 2, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Atkins 0-2 0-0 0. Ashby 0-0 0-0 0, Freize 0-0 0-0 0, Ingram 0-0 0-0 0. Zach 0-0 0-0 0. FG: 29-59. FT: 12-13. 3-pointers: 8-22 (Porter 4-7, Bradley 1-3, Hudson 0-2, Villers 3-7, Conway 0-3). Rebounds: 27 (Porter 3 Bradley 4, Hudson 2, Phillips 2, Adkins 1, Villers 9, Sellars 9, Conway 2, Gillum 1, Atkins 1). Assists: 16 (Porter 5, Bradley 1, Hudson 1, Phillips 3, Adkins 1, Sellars 2, Davis 3). PF: 14. Turnovers: 7.
SCOTT COUNTY (52) – Grigsby 0-3 0-0 0, Coffey 1-4 0-0 3, Hamilton 3-10 4-4 12, Leake 4-15 3-4 11, Richardson 5-7 0-0 12, Bredwood 3-5 2-4 8, J.Hamilton 1-2 0-0 2, Glenn 0-1 2-2 2, Haynes 0-0 0-0 0, Emongo 0-2 0-0 0, Middleton 0-1 1-2 1, Mosby 0-1 1-2 1, Mudekereza 0-1 0-0 0. FG: 17-52. FT: 13-18. 3-pointers: 5-20 (). Assists: 10 (). PF: 14. Turnovers: 18.
ASHLAND 16 21 17 24 – 78
SCOTT COUNTY 18 15 11 8 – 52