Tight as expected, a brotherly swipe and ‘bigs’ provide edge in 1990s opener

ASHLAND, Ky. – Whew!

In a game every bit as good as advertised, the 1995-99 Tomcats drew first blood in the best-of-3 series with the 1990-94 Tomcats in an entertaining 113-106 victory in front of a record crowd at James A. Anderson Gymnasium Saturday afternoon.

Kyle Umberger powered in 25 points and sparked a key 9-0 surge in the third quarter that broke open a tight game that featured 16 lead changes and 14 ties.

There wasn’t much separation between the teams until Umberger scored seven in the 9-0 run to take the game from 70 apiece to 79-70.

“Kyle put the team on his back like he did so many times for us,” said 95-99 Tomcats coach Wayne Breeden. “When you have him, (Darrell) Arbaugh and (Chris) Lynch in there, it’s pretty formidable. They couldn’t match that.”

Umberger did surprise though with a pair of 15-footers in the surge that was sparked just as much from strong defense. Breeden used a 1-2-2 press to force four consecutive turnovers.

Brian Strader had an open court steal from his brother Jason that started the run. He lofted a perfect pass to Umberger to make it 72-70.

“That’ll be the last time that will happen,” vowed Jason Strader of his brother’s swipe.

However, the best defense came from Chris Estep, who took on Marty Thomas in the box-and-one that Breeden deployed against his former star. Ashland’s all-time scoring king was 6-of-15 for 16 points.

“Marty was going to have a tough time scoring inside if he got around Chris,” Breeden said. “But we couldn’t let him get going. I know the kind of damage he could do to teams. Chris is a bulldog. He did a good job of limiting Marty’s touches.”

Rob Lynch scored 20 and Jason Strader collected 17 points and nine assists. Nathan Kirk had 14 points.

“We got enough scoring, but we didn’t play enough defense,” said 90-94 coach Jeff Hall. “It was a great game though. Both of us played pretty well overall. That’s a load they have inside.”

Arbaugh (17 points) and Chris Lynch (12 points) joined with Umberger for a combined 54 points and 25 rebounds. Tony Barrow came off the bench for another 10 points.

Meanwhile, Tate Tolbert was spectacular with 19 points and five assists and Michael Lynch bombed in 13 points.

“We had six in double figures and Chris scored eight garbage points,” Breeden said.

It was hard to say who had the most floor burns. It was a close race between Estep and the 1990-94 team’s Smooth Greene, Stuart Smith and Ryan Robinson. On one possession, Greene and Smith caused a turnover by fighting each other for the basketball.

“Those guys are balls of fire,” Hall said. “How can you get upset with them over that play? It was like two dogs fighting over the same piece of meat.”

The first half was a dead-even battle with the 90-94 Tomcats holding the biggest lead at 57-51. It was tied at 59 at the half.

“That’s a lot more points than either one of us should have given up,” Breeden said.

The second half was much the same with the teams practically trading baskets until the 9-0 surge put the 95-99 Tomcats ahead for good. They built their biggest lead at 93-80 when Michael Lynch finished off a fastbreak after a pinpoint pass from Derek Cooksey.

Both teams shot it well from 3-point range with the 90-94 Tomcats going 10 of 24 and the 95-99 Tomcats shooting 12 of 28. Surprisingly, three of Arbaugh’s four baskets were triples.

“We were going to let him have that shot and he burned us,” Hall said. “He showed some range we didn’t think he had.”

The teams also both shot 47 percent from the field.

“This is going to be a great series,” Breeden said. “I’m glad we won the first one. It gives us some breathing room. I know Jeff is going to come back with something different. We need to be prepared for it.”

Thomas said the 90-94 Tomcats would get it together and he promised there would be a Game 3. “We’re winning tomorrow,” he said. “Put that in your story.”

1990-94 TOMCATS (106) – J.Strader 7-11 0-0 17, Young 3-10 0-2 7, R.Lynch 7-12 4-4 20, Kirk 5-10 3-4 14, Thomas 6-15 3-4 16, Salyers 202 909 4, Keeton 1-5 2-2 4, Robinson 2-5 0-0 4, Gray 3-6 1-2 7, Greene 1-4 5-5 8, Smith 2-3 0-0 5. FG: 39-83: FT: 18-23. 3FG: 10-24 (J.Strader 3-5, Young 1-5, R.Lynch 2-2, Kirk 1-1, Robinson 0-3, Gray 0-2, Greene 1-1, Smith 1-2). Rebounds: 39 (J.Strader 3, Young 4, R.Lynch 4, Kirk 5, Thomas 6, Salyers 1, Keeton 4, Robinson 3, Gray 4, Greene 3, Smith 2). Assists: 23 (J.Strader 9, R.Lynch 4, Salyers 1, Keeton 2, Robinson 3, Gray 2, Greene 2). PF: 21. Turnovers: 18.

1995-99 TOMCATS (113) – Tolbert 8-11 2-2 19, M.Lynch 5-14, 0-0 13, Umberger 11-9 2-4 25, Arbaugh 4-13 6-8 17, C.Lynch 4-5 4-4 12, Barrow 3-4 3-4 10, Estep 4-8 0-0 8, Cooksey 2-6 0-0 6, Johnson 0-5 0-0 0, B.Strader 0-2 0-0 0, Stakely 1-1 0-0 3. FG: 42-88. FT: 17-22. 3FG: 12-28 (Tolbert 1-3, M.Lynch 3-6, Umberger 1-2, Estep 0-4, C.Lynch 0-1, Arbaugh 3-4, Barrow 1-1, Cooksey 2-5, Johnson 0-1, Stakely 1-1). Rebounds: 40 (Tolbert 2, M.Lynch 4, Umberger 12, Arbaugh 7, C.Lynch 6, Estep 4, Cooksey 3, Johnson 2). Assists: 25 (Toblert 5, M.Lynch 2, Arbaugh 3, C.Lynch 3, Barrow 4, Cooksey 1, Johnson 2, B.Strader 5). PF: 20. Turnovers: 13.

1990-94 TOMCATS       28         31         21         26      –        106

1995-99 TOMCATS       30         29         29         25      –        113

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