2020 Tomcats’ balance wins out against 1956 Tomcats

ASHLAND, Ky. – Ashland’s ultimate team was matched up against one of the program’s most prolific scorers at the old Ashland High School late Friday night.

The 2020 Tomcats took on the 1956 Tomcats and George Carroll, a 5-foot-9 guard, who came into the game with a big reputation and the ability to put up points in bunches. During his senior season, he had games of 52, 40 and six others in the 30s. He took aim on these futuristic Tomcats, but they were ready.

Coach Jason Mays has won back-to-back regional titles. (Kimberly Phillips photo)

“We knew what kind of scorer he is and the key was not to let him go nuts, and contain everybody else,” said 2020 Tomcat coach Jason Mays. “I thought we did a decent job of that with our defense. We switched off on Carroll to make sure he didn’t wear us down.”

Carroll scored his points, collecting 25, and Bill Emmett scored 18 but no other 56 Tomcat cracked double figures. And the freewheeling and balanced 2020 Tomcats put five in double figures and made an incredible 27 of 29 free throws. They also bombed in 11-of-23 shots from behind the arc in a balanced attack that led to an 85-70 victory. It was a familiar formula for the 2020 Tomcat team that produced 33 consecutive victories.

“It’s such a special group of young men,” Mays said. “I would coach these guys forever if I could.”

The final margin of 15 points, but it was a much tighter game. It was tied 16 times and there was a dozen lead changes.

Two minutes into the fourth quarter, Carroll drove for a basket and was fouled. He sank the free throw to make it 61-56. But that was the closest the 56 Tomcats would come. Ethan Sellars ignited a 12-3 run for the 2020 Tomcats that made it 73-59. He had his own mini-run of six consecutive points, scoring on a fastbreak, a drive and a putback on consecutive possessions.

“Selly was big for us there,” Mays said. “Those guys were hanging around and hanging around. But that was it. Selly took care of them. He is a streaky kind of player.”

Colin Porter scored 17, Ethan Hudson and Cole Villers 16 apiece, Sellars 12 and Justin Bradley 11. It was a typically balanced performance from the 2020 Tomcats. However, after the game, they were all talking about the 27 of 29 free throw showing.

“Everybody was going to the line wondering who was going to be the first one to miss,” said Hudson. “I guess that got to me since I’m the only one who missed one. After the first one came out, I was mad at myself and started thinking about it too much.”

Hudson was 6 of 8 from the foul line while his teammates were a perfect 21 of 21. They made their first 20 attempts before Hudson missed a pair.

“I tell you what, that’s one good team,” said 1956 coach Bob Lavoy. “They’re not a big team but they did a good job against our big men. George played well, like he always does.”

Carroll was 9 of 16 shooting from the field and he made 7 of 10 free throws. Dale Griffith scored nine points and collected six rebounds and Howard Humphreys had seven points and seven rebounds for the 1956 Tomcats.

“When we pulled within five in the fourth quarter, I thought we could make a run at them but the Sellars boy took us out of it,” Lavoy said. “They were such a tough team to defend because they could score from every spot. And I’ve never seen a better passing team. They move the ball as well as anybody we played.”

Mays said the 2020 Tomcats are proving they belong with the elite teams in Ashland history.

“These guys have made their own mark in the history of this incredible program,” he said. “I know people will be talking about them for a long time, maybe forever, in Ashland.”

Real life

Ashland’s 2020 team finished the perfect season – 33-0 – but will always wonder what if. The coronavirus kept them from competing in the Sweet 16, which was cancelled.

Ashland’s 1956 team was 20-9 and bowed out against Mt. Sterling in the semifinals of the 16th Region tournament. George Carroll’s 52-point game came against Carr Creek in the Ashland Armory in a 98-90 victory. It was the first game of a doubleheader that night. The second game feature the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters.

2020 ASHLAND (85) – Gillum 0-2 4-4 4, Bradley 3-8 2-2 11, Villers 3-9 606 16, Phillips 2-5 0-0 4, Hudson 5-6 6-8 16, Porter 5-6 5-5 17, Adkins 1-1 0-0 3, Atkins 0-2 0-0 0, Sellars 4-9 2-2 12, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Conway 0-2 2-2 2. FG: 23-50. FT: 27-29. 3FG: 11-23 (Gillum 0-2, Bradley 3-5, Villers 4-7, Phillips 0-3, Porter 2-2, Adkins 1-1, Atkins 0-1, Sellars 2-2, Conway 0-2). Rebounds: 25 (Gillum 1, Villers 5, Phillips 5, Hudson 3, Porter 1, Adkins 3, Sellars 4, Davis 1, Conway 2). Assists: 10 (Gillum 2, Bradley 2, Villers 1, Phillips 1, Porter 3). PF: 22. Turnovers: 10.

1956 ASHLAND (70) – Emmett 7-10 3-4 18, Griffith 3-7 1-1 9, Wellman 0-0 0-0 0, Carroll 9-16 7-10 25, Humphreys 3-4 0-0 6, Wright 1-5 909 4 6, Frazier 2-5 1-1 5, Church 0-3 1-2 1, Meeks 0-2 0-0 0. FG: 25-52. FT: 17-22. 3FG: 3-9 (Emmett 1-3, Griffith 2-4, Frazier 0-1, Church 0-1). Rebounds: 22 (Emmett 1, Griffith 6, Carroll 1, Humphreys 7, Wright 2, Frazier 4, Meeks 1). Assists: 15 (Emmett 8, Griffith 2, Wellman 1, Carroll 2, Wright 2). PF: 20. Turnovers: 13.

2020 ASHLAND        23         18         20         24       –         85

1956 ASHLAND        24         14         15         17         –        70

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