(This is a computer simulation matching great Ashland Tomcat teams of the past against each other. All game results are computer-generated but the quotes and enhanced play-by-play are on me.)
ASHLAND, Ky. – In a wild game that included 10 players scoring in double figures, 50 assists and both teams breaking the century mark, the 2020 Ashland Tomcats survived a double-overtime thriller on Justin Bradley’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to defeat the 1972 Tomcats, 111-108, Thursday night.
Bradley nailed a corner three – one of only two triples the 20 Tomcats connected on the entire game – for the winner.
The strategy for the 72 Tomcats was to shut down the 20 Tomcats’ vaunted 3-point attack and they did it well, limiting them to only six attempts. But it was a 3-point dagger that did them in with Bradley’s swish from the corner ending a game that featured 14 lead changes.
The game was an offensive show from the outset with the 20 Tomcats jumping ahead 22-17 after the first quarter but trailing 42-35 at the half and 62-59 heading into the fourth quarter.
20 Tomcats coach Jason Mays, ringing wet from sweat after the two-hour game played in front of a packed house at James A. Anderson Gymnasium, said his head was spinning on the sidelines with the teams running up and down the floor. It was as much track meet as basketball game.
“We hardly had time to call anything,” he said, wiping his face with a towel. “They were pressuring our 3-point shooters so we took them off the dribble, which this team does very well. They absolutely were not going to lose by the 3-pointer.”
Colin Porter, who led the 20 Cats with 23 points and 14 assists, sliced down the lane and found teammates open when he was picked up time after time. Cole Villers led the 20 Cats with 25 points while Ethan Hudson (17), Sellars (14) and Bradley (12) joined him in double figures.
“This was like a summer league game in a lot of ways,” Porter said. “It was up and down the court. You hardly had a chance to set your self on defense because here they’d come. They were big and talented, as good as we’ve faced.”
The game had to be stopped three times to mop up condensation on the floor. Both the 72 Tomcats and 20 Tomcats experienced the same circumstances during their seasons, so it was nothing new. to either one.
Besides that, they both could use the breather.
“I was gassed,” Hudson said. “We never stopped running the entire game. It was like playing NBA2K except we were the players in the game. Those 72 guys were so tough, no wonder they won so much.”
Ronnie Griffith was tough to stop for the 72 Cats, scoring a game-high 27 points with nine rebounds. Dale Lynch and Chuck Williams scored 19 apiece, Dwayne Farrow had 14 and Steve Dodd 10. Williams led with 12 rebounds.
72 Tomcat Steve Hall’s driving layup with two seconds to play in regulation tied the game at 83 to force overtime. Villers got away with a foul on the play, crashing into Hall as he soared to the basket and made the shot. But no foul was called.
Each team had sizable leads, nine for the 20 Tomcats and 11 for the 72 Tomcats at 54-43 midway through the third quarter.
Bradley made one of two free throws with 49 seconds to play in the first overtime to tie it at 95 and neither team could score again the rest of the OT, even though they each missed two scoring opportunities. Griffith’s short bank shot from about 12 feet away spun out and Williams’ putback was ruled after the buzzer to end the first overtime.
Villers drilled a 15-footer and then drove for another basket to put the 20 Tomcats in front 103-100 in the second OT. The lead grew to 108-102 before the 72 Tomcats scored six consecutive points, including a nice up-and-under move from Williams, to pull even at 108 with six seconds remaining.
After a timeout, the 20 Tomcats made a pass to halfcourt and quickly called another timeout with four seconds to play. That allowed Mays to set up some last-second strategy.
“It was exactly how we drew it up,” Bradley said. “I was surprised to get open with the way they were overplaying us all game. Cole knew right where he was going with the ball.”
Mays said he had an idea that Bradley could get open. The inbounds pass from Porter went to Villers about the foul line and he quickly zipped it to Bradley, who used a screen from Hudson to get free. He got off the shot a split second before the buzzer sounded. Bingo!
“This is the kind of game you play over and over again in your mind,” said 72 coach Harold Cole. “We had our chances to win and they did too. It was almost like the last shot was going to win. We took away those 3-pointers all night long and then got burned by one.”
1972 Ashland was the last Tomcat team to be ranked No. 1 until this past season. The Tomcats fell to Russell in the 16th Region championship game. They finished 28-3.
2000 Ashland finished 33-0 but unable to play in the Sweet 16 because of the coronavirus. It’s the first unbeaten Tomcat team since 1928.
2020 ASHLAND (111) – Porter 8-22 7-9 23, Bradley 5-12 1-2 12, Villers 9-13 6-8 25, Hudson 6-17 5-7 17, Sellars 5-6 4-6 14, Adkins 0-1 2-2 2, Gillum 3-7 2-2 8, Phillips 2-4 2-2 6, Davis 1-2 1-2 3, Atkins 0-3 1-1 1. FGs: 39-86. FT: 31-42. 3-point FGs: 2-6 (Porter 0-2, Bradley 1-2, Villers 1-1, Gillum 0-1). Rebounds: 42 (Porter 5, Bradley 6, Villers 4, Hudson 4, Sellars 6, Adkins 4, Gillum 4, Phillips 7, Atkins 2). Assists: 24 (Porter 14, Villers 2, Gillum 4, Phillips 1, Sellars 2, Davis 1). PF: 28. Turnovers: 13.
1972 ASHLAND (108) – Hall 1-4 2-3 4, Booker 0-2 0-0 0, Griffith 11-15 5-6 27, Lynch 8-15 3-5 19, Williams 8-18 3-4 19, Dodd 3-3 4-5 10, Kleykamp 2-8 2-3 6, Farrow 7-12 0-2 14, Evans 1-2 1-1 3, Conley 3-3 0-0 6. FGs: 44-82. FT: 20-29. 3-point FGs: 0-3 (Griffith 0-1, Lynch 0-2). Rebounds: 45 (Hall 1, Booker 3, Griffith 9, Lynch 6, Williams 12, Dodd 5, Kleykamp 2, Farrow 4, Evans 2, Conley 1). Assists: 26 (Booker 3, Griffith 3, Lynch 6, Williams 4, Dodd 3, Farrow 5, Evans 2). PF: 33. Turnovers: 21.
2020 ASHLAND 22 13 24 24 12 16 – 111
1972 ASHLAND 17 25 20 21 12 13 – 108