ASHLAND, Ky. – Ashland’s 1968 Tomcats welcomed the 1979 Tomcats to a little old school basketball at the gym on Lexington Avenue.
They didn’t have to do much introduction about style of play to the 79 Cats, who played a methodical pound-it-inside game under defensive guru coach Paul Patterson. The 68 Tomcats, led by guards Bobby Lynch and Joe Conley, were more of the get-it-and-go style under coach Harold Cole.
The conflicting styles were going to make for a delicious simulation matchup between two great Tomcat teams.
Coach Paul Patterson took the Tomcats to four regional titles.“We’ve heard about these guys,” Patterson said. “They have some offensive firepower with Lynch and Conley. Our defense will have to play one of its best games to win this game and that’s what we plan to do.”
The 68 Tomcats used Cole’s 1-3-1 trapping defense as a force itself. But they loved to run with the basketball most of all.
“This team played it as well as any of my Tomcat teams,” Cole said of the trapping defense. “We’re looking forward to how we matchup with these guys. They have some size advantage on us, but I like our chances. We can score points with anybody.”
The height advantage belonged to the 79 Cats, who had a pair of 6-7 players inside in Dirk Anders and Jeff Tipton. Doug Smith and Greg McCauley also had size on a team that looked like they belonged in college.
However, the rebounding edge went to the 68 Tomcats, 38-34, with Johnny Mullins pulling down 11 boards. It turned out to be pivotal.
“Rebounding is effort,” Patterson said. “That should tell you something.”
After a stalemated first quarter ended at 19-19, the 79 Tomcats put together a nice streak. McCauley was practically unstoppable with 10 points during a 13-4 run that resulted in a 30-23 lead. The advantage was 38-28 at the half when Smith drove to the basket, collided with Roger Baldridge, and scored anyway.
The old Ashland High School gym was packed for the game and the crowd got silent after the strong move from Smith. The teams headed for the locker room thinking about that late move.
Cole could be heard loud and clear even though the locker room door was closed at intermission. His rant lasted about five good minutes.
“I’m not going to say exactly what he said but, I will tell you that the message was received,” Lynch said. “We knew the second quarter wasn’t us. We got intimidated by their size and quit playing our game. That changed in the second half.”
Trailing 41-36, it was Lynch who started a resurgence. He banked in a 12-footer and was fouled by McCauley. Lynch completed the three-point play and the 68 Tomcats had trimmed the deficit to 41-39. Baldridge tied the game by pump-faking and going up and under Anders to score. It was 45-45.
Mike Griffith put the 68 Tomcats ahead for the first time in the second half at 52-50 when he bombed in an 18-footer at the third quarter buzzer. The gym was extremely loud between quarters as the 68 fans started to like what they were seeing on the court. Their team had returned.
“That wasn’t us in that second quarter,” Conley said. “I don’t know where our heads were.”
Cole’s message was definitely received. The 68 Tomcats outscored the befuddled 79 Tomcats, 24-12, in the third quarter.
“We let the pace of the game get away from us,” Patterson said. “Then the defense let down and it was all but over.”
The 79 Tomcats tied the game again at 52 on a pair of free throws from John Anderson. However, Lynch’s long jumper completed an 8-0 run that put the 68 Tomcats in control for keeps. It was the last of his 22 points though because he came down awkwardly and rolled his ankle. Lynch went out and never returned.
The 79 Tomcats took advantage, pulling within 66-61 when Tipton got loose and slammed a two-handed dunk down. The crowd began buzzing again.
“Man, that was some power move,” Baldridge said. “The big guy can play. He was tough in there.”
Ray Kleykamp sank three free throws down the stretch to secure the 71-63 victory over the 79 Tomcats. It was a dominating second half for the 68 Tomcats, who held a 43-25 advantage in the second half.
“They outplayed us in every phase of the game in the second half,” Patterson said. “We’ve called an early morning practice for tomorrow. This was embarrassing to them and me. I want to apologize to the Tomcat fans out there for how we played. It won’t happen again.”
Cole was beaming about the 68 Tomcats’ play in the second half. “That’s as good as we can do it,” he said. Conley scored 12 and Mike Griffith 11 in a balanced attack.
“Our guys could have packed it in at halftime,” Cole said. “We had a little heart to heart that might have helped us.”
Lynch, raising his eyebrows after hearing Cole’s comments, said, “You think?”
Ashland’s 1979 team followed the same Patterson style with great defense and captured a fourth consecutive regional title. The Tomcats were 19-14 and lost in the quarterfinal round of the Sweet 16.
Ashland’s 1968 team dropped an 80-75 decision to talented Russell in the regional championship. It was a heartbreaking defeat. The Tomcats beat Russell 77-73 in the regular season. Ashland finished 22-10.
1979 ASHLAND (63) – Cobb 3-8 1-3 7, Anders 2-5 3-4 7, McCauley 8-13 3-7 19, Smith 4-14 3-7 11, Tipton 4-9 3-4 11, Withrow 0-2 0-0 0, Henderson 0-3 0-1 0, Brown 1-4 0-1 2, Anderson 0-5 2-2 2, Bush 1-3 2-2 4. FG: 23-67. FT: 17-31. Rebounds: 34 (Cobb 1, Anders 2, McCauley 5, Tipton 7, Smith 7, Withrow 2, Brown 6, Anderson 1, Bush 2. Assists: Tipton 1, Withrow 1, Henderson 2). PF: 23. Turnovers: 10.
1968 ASHLAND (71) – Lynch 9-16 4-5 22, Kleykamp 3-10 3-5 9, M.Griffith 4-10 3-3 11, Mullins 2-5 1-2 5, R.Griffith 0-5 0-0 0, Conley 4-7 4-6 12, Baldridge 3-4 2-3 8, Owens 0-2 2-2 2, Leibee 1-1 0-0 2, Salyers 0-2 0-0 0. FG: 26-62. FT: 19-26. Rebounds: 38 (Lynch 5, Kleykamp 1, M.Griffith 3, Mullins 11, Conley 6, G.Griffith 2, Conley 2, Owens 1, Baldridge 2). Assists: 13 (Lynch 4, Kleykamp 3, M.Griffith 2, Mullins 1, R.Griffith 1, Owens 1, Leibee 1. PF: 21. Turnovers: 19.
1979 ASHLAND 19 19 12 13 – 63
1968 ASHLAND 19 9 24 19 – 71