Even with triple-double, old school Tomcats can’t catch new school Cats

ASHLAND, Ky. – In a game that was as much intriguing as exciting, as close as it was shocking, and as good as it gets for simulation, the new school Tomcats defeated the old school Tomcats.

After an exhausting 22 lead changes and nine ties, the 2015-20 Tomcats withstood a great challenge from the surprising 1955-59 Tomcats, 116-111, Monday night at the old Ashland High School in the quarterfinals of the Tomcat Shootout.

The 1950s Tomcats gave it their best shot, even taking a one-point lead into the fourth quarter behind Larry Castle’s triple-double – the first in the history of the simulation series – with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Colin Porter had 25 points and nine assists.

“Not sure anybody could do more than Larry did,” said teammate Howard Humphreys, who collected 19 points and 14 rebounds. “These young Tomcats are tough and when you add the (Christian) Villers kid with them, man oh man, they’re hard to guard.”

Christian Villers and Colin Porter scored 25 apiece to offset the twin 21-point games from Castle and George Carroll.

“I know we have a lot of shooters, but those guys can put the ball in the basket,” said 2015-20 Tomcat coach Jason Mays. “I’d like to take Castle and Carroll with me to the next round. Humphreys is as tough as they come, too. He knocked us around a little bit inside. We were lucky to win this game.”

The high-scoring Tomcats also had another big game from Cole Villers, who collected 20 points and 19 rebounds.

“Villers, Villers, Villers,” said 1955-59 Tomcat coach Bob Lavoy. “That’s all I heard from (public address announcer) Chuck Rist over there. Those guys are a nightmare.”

It was only double-Villers powered this time. Chase rolled his ankle during the warmups and didn’t play much.

“He could have gone more but we have plenty of players,” Mays said. “I didn’t want to chance it. We will need him in the semifinals.”

In a pulsating first half, the teams were never separated by more than four points. The biggest lead was 42-38 after Robert Wright scored on the end of a fastbreak with a pinpoint pass from Castle, who dazzled with his assists.

Carroll drilled a 17-footer at the buzzer to end the first half for a 60-59 lead for the 1955-59 Tomcats.

“They more than got our attention in the first half,” Mays said. “I don’t know if our guys thought they were going to win this easily or what. But the message was clear at halftime. The 50s Tomcats were here to win.”

Nothing changed in the first two minutes of the second half with the 1950s Cats building a 71-62 lead when Castle head-faked and drove around Justin Bradley, who was trying to keep up with him to no avail.

“We tried a little bit of everything on Castle but nothing seemed to work” Mays said.

Leading 77-68, though, the 50s Tomcats went stone cold.

The 20s Cats went on a 20-10 spurt to regain the lead at 88-87 when Porter drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 18 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

“Big shot right there,” Mays said.

The lead would go back and forth four times in the fourth quarter. Ethan Hudson, who scored 18 points, dropped in a pair of free throws for a 94-93 and Hunter Mays scored his only basket on a 12-footer to make it 96-93 – a big lead in a game that was tight from buzzer to buzzer.

The 20s Tomcats made it 104-109 after two free throws from Christian Villers at the 3:47 mark – the last points of the game for him.

“Even when we were down five, I thought we had a good chance,” Lavoy said. “One thing we never got the hang of was the 3-point shot. I think we forget about it.”

The 50s Tomcats, who didn’t have the 3-pointer in their day, took only four triples and made one. The 20s Tomcats lived by the triple play and made 6 of 22, a low percentage from them. But they still held an 18-3 lead on 3-pointers, a big difference in the game.

Carroll and Don Church hit back-to-back baskets to cut the deficit to 109-107 with 1:19 remaining. Porter completed a three-point play, surviving a hard foul by Humphreys who came across the lane to clobber him.

“I don’t know how he made that shot,” Humphreys said. “I intended to put him into the wall.”

Porter flung the ball to the basket as he was being hit. The three-point play made it 112-107.

Humpheys scored on a putback and Hudson swished to free throws to make it 114-109. Castle came down and drilled an 18-footer, just inside the 3-point line, to make it 114-111 with only six seconds remaining.

Hudson was fouled again and hit two free throws to set the final score. He made 10 of 16 free throws.

Two strong passing teams combined for 51 assists. The 50s Tomcats had 28, including the 10 from Castle and nine from Carroll, their top two scorers. Porter had nine assists for the 20s Tomcats.

“Porter gave us what we needed,” Mays said. “He was probably our MVP tonight.”

Hudson scored 18, Sellars 12 and Devaunte Robinson 10 as six scored in double figures. Bradley, switching as a defender on Castle and Carroll, managed to pull down 13 rebounds.

The 20s Tomcats await the winner of the quarterfinal game between the 1980-84 and 2000-2004 Tomcats.

2015-2020 TOMCATS (116) – Christian Villers 9-19 6-7 25, Porter 8-14 7-7 25, Robinson 3-9 1-1 10, Cole Villers 9-12 2-2 20, Hudson 4-9 10-16 18, Bradley 1-5 0-0 2, Sellars 6-8 0-0 12, Chase Villers 0-4 0-0 0, Miller 1-4 0-0 2, Mays 1-1 0-0 2. FG: 42-85. FG: 26-33. 3FG: 6-22 (Porter 2-9, Christian Villers 1-5, Robinson 3-4, Bradley 0-1, Chase Villers 0-1, Miller 0-2). Rebounds: 55 (Porter 5, Christian Villers 4, Robinson 4, Cole Villers 19, Hudson 2, Bradley 13, Sellars 4, Chase Villers 4). Assists: 23 (Porter 9, Christian Villers 6, Cole Villers 1, Hudson 4, Bradley 2, Sellars 1). PF: 15. Turnovers: 14.

1955-59 TOMCATS (111) – Kazee 5-9 0-0 11, Castle 9-19 3-4 21, Carroll 10-17 1-1 21, Meeks 0-0 0-0 0, Humphreys 9-19 1-4 19, Church 5-7 3-4 13, Patton 3-6 2-3 8, Griffith 5-9 2-2 12,  Campbell 1-7 0-0 2, Wright 1-5 0-0 2. FG: 49-99. FT: 12-18. 3FG: 1-4 (Kazee 1-2, Castle 0-1, Carroll 0-1). Rebounds: 47 (Kazee 1, Castle 10, Carroll 6, Meeks 1, Humphreys 14, Church 2, Patton 3, Griffith 5, Campbell 1, Wright 2). Assists: 28 (Kazee 6, Castle 10, Carroll 7, Humphreys 2, Church 1, Campbell 1, Wright 1). PF: 26. Turnovers: 13.

2015-2020 TOMCATS        32      28       28      28      –         116

1955-59 TOMCATS            31      28       30      22      –         111


An intangible difference in quarterfinal opener

ASHLAND, Ky. – It’s called the intangibles and they often determine who wins and who doesn’t.

The first quarterfinal game of the Tomcat Shootout came down to an intangible.

As expected, it was a physical battle between the 1970-74 Tomcats and the 1990-94 Tomcats. They both were known for their toughness and that showed up in the opening round with down-to-the-wire victories in the third game of their respective best-of-3 series.

Now it was into the quarterfinals, where it’s win or go home.

“I’ve never seen two teams go at it any harder than these two,” said 1970-74 Tomcat coach Steve Gilmore. “I’m probably not running for office again but, if I do, I want guys like this in my corner. I could go on and on about each player but I don’t guess you have enough … ”

No, sorry coach, we don’t.

The way the game played out spoke volumes. Both teams had their leads – 11 points for the 1990-94 Tomcats and nine for the 1970-74 Tomcats – at different times throughout the game. The stars performed like the stars perform – Marty Thomas scored 33 for 1990-94 and Ronnie Griffith scored 22 for 1970-74 – and they both played important roles.

But the difference was the intangibles.

The 1990-94 Tomcats built an early lead of 28-23 in the first quarter after leading by as many as eight points, the last time at 24-16 when Jason Strader head-faked Dale Lynch off his feet and went around him for a layup.

But the game wasn’t getting away from anybody.

The physical 1970-74 Tomcats knocked Thomas to the floor more times than once, although he still was an incredible 12-for-19 shooting. He also made 9 of 11 free throws and pulled down 12 rebounds.

“You could always count on Marty for the big baskets, too,” said 1990-94 coach Jeff Hall. “He did that again tonight for us and he had some help. Four in double figures is usually a good sign for us.”

The game was higher scoring than most anticipated but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t physical. The 1990-94 Tomcats pushed back. A hard body check on a screen by Rob Lynch sent Danny Evans to the floor and Rusty Gray and Ryan Robinson scrapped for every loose ball available, one time kicking Paul Hixson in the mouth. He had to leave the game after having two teeth knocked out.

The inside play was strong for the 1970-74 Tomcats with Chuck Williams and Steve Dodd playing significant roles. Williams collected 17 points and 10 rebounds and Dodd had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Dodd’s block-outs included a few well-placed elbows in the ribs of Nathan Kirk, who one time gave Dodd a push in the back into the wall when the referees weren’t looking.

“I thought we were going to have a fight,” Gilmore said. “It’s a good thing Ronnie was holding him back or Dodd would have probably been tossed. Johnny (Mullins) was telling him to ‘Go get ‘em!’”

Tempers flared the next time down the floor and the officials called for a timeout to talk to both coaches. The crowd was starting to get active too and that was the bigger concern.

“I wasn’t worried about the players, those things happen,” Hall said. “But it was getting dicey in the stands. And I may or may not have told Nathan he needed to make sure he introduced himself to Mr. Dodd in a nice way.”

The 70-74 Tomcats seemed to get an emotional edge from the near scuffle though. They rallied and overtook the 90-94 Tomcats for a 58-51 halftime lead when Mullins, blood dripping from his mouth, sank a pair of free throws with 13 seconds to play.

The second half was a carbon copy of the first with physical play being the common denominator.

Dodd scored inside to make it 83-73 with 35 seconds to go but the 1990-94 Tomcats got the last three points of the quarter to trail only 83-76 going into the fourth quarter.

“We were in pretty good shape right there because these old men were wearing down,” Hall said.

Gilmore laughed at Hall’s comment about the fatigue.

“Put a ball on the floor and watch them go,” he said. “I’ve never seen so many people diving for the basketball. Coaching these guys were a dream, a bunch of hard nuts to crack. They weren’t tired, not one bit.”

A three-point play from Thomas took an 88-84 deficit to 88-87 early in the fourth quarter and the game played out tight from there. A 5-0 run from the 90-94 Cats put them back in front for the first time in the second half at 92-88. It included a dazzling drive-and-score from Robinson, who was pummeled by Mullins. Robinson completed the three-point trip.

Blood was flowing from the noses of Williams and Fred Keeton, who had got into a little elbow battle, too. The colors of this game were maroon-and-red!

“I tell you what, it was tough inside,” Thomas said. “I’ve never taken so many body shots. Nothing came easy.”

Thomas scored five consecutive points to tie the game at 96 and he had two other baskets that kept it close with the 90-94 Cats trailing 102-100. Two free throws from Griffith brought the lead to 104-100 but Austin Young answered with a 3-pointer from the deep corner to make it 104-103.

Griffith made one of two free throws and Thomas, who was well covered inside, stepped outside and swished a 15-footer to tie it 105-105 with 10 seconds remaining.

Evans hurried it down the floor and fired up an off-balance 15-footer that spun around the rim and came out, but Jeff Cooksey kept the ball alive with a one-handed tip, allowing Dodd to grab the rebound and stick it in as the buzzer sounded for an exhausting 107-105 victory.

The 70-74 Tomcats ran up to Dodd and surrounded him in celebration while the 90-94 Tomcats looked up at the scoreboard while bent over with hands on their knees.

“I made the game-winning shot but it would have never happened if Jeff Cooksey hadn’t kept it alive,” Dodd said. “The guy is always hustling. He had a tough game but he made the biggest play of the night.”

Cooksey was the intangible difference.

It was a tough ending for the 90-94 Tomcats, which had a big game from Rob Lynch with 21 points and Kirk and Strader with 13 points apiece. Kirk also had nine rebounds and Strader 10 assists.

Dale Lynch didn’t miss a shot and scored 15 points – 5-for-5 from the field including a 3-pointer and 4-for-4 on free throws. Mullins scored 13 points.

The difference in the game was the failure of the 90-94 Tomcats to get the 3-point game going. They were a woeful 1-for-15.

“These guys are shooters, so I don’t understand how that happened … until you look at their arms,” Hall said. “They were blood red, I swear. You can’t make a 3-pointer with somebody swiping at your arms.”

It didn’t help that the 90-94 Tomcats missed with nobody around them. They were 22 of 40 on free throws.

“Welcome to the 1970s boys,” Mullins said.

The 1970-74 Tomcats play the tournament favorite 1960-64 Tomcats in the semifinals.

1970-74 ASHLAND (107) – Mullins 5-8 3-3 13, Griffith 9-24 4-5 22, D.Lynch 5-5 4-4 15, Williams 6-15 5-9 17, Dodd 7-10 5-10 19, Farrow 1-4 2-2 5, Evans 3-9 909 6, Cooksey 2-7 1-2 5, Smith 1-2 1-1 3, Hixson 1-4 0-0 2. FG: 40-88. FT: 25-36. 3FG: 2-6 (D.Lynch 1-1, Griffith 0-1, Evans 0-2, Farrow 1-2). Rebounds: 48 (Mullins 5, Griffith 8, D.Lynch 2, Williams 10, Dodd 10, Cooksey 8, Smith 2). Assists: 17 (Mullins 2, Griffith 3, D.Lynch 2, Williams 2, Dodd 3, Evans 2, Cooksey 1, Smith 1, Hixson 1). PF: 30. Turnovers: 17.

1990-1994 ASHLAND (101) – Strader 6-13 1-2 13, Thomas 12-19 9-11 33, Young 2-10 0-0 5, Keeton 2-6 1-4 5, R.Lynch 8-11 5-8 21, Kirk 5-10 3-9 13, Greene 3-9 1-3 7, Gray 1-2 1-2 3, Robinson 2-4 1-1 5, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Salyers 0-3 0-0 0. FG: 41-87. FT: 22-40. 3FG: 1-15 (Strader 0-4, Thomas 0-2, Young 1-3, R.Lynch 0-3, Greene 0-2). Rebounds: 53 (Strader 2, Thomas 12, Young 5, Keeton 11, R.Lynch 5, Kirk 9, Greene 5, Gray 2, Robinson 1). Assists: 20 (Strader 6, Young 4, R.Lynch 2, Smith 4, Robinson 4). PF: 24. Turnovers: 18.

1970-74 TOMCATS     23      35      25           24      –         107

1990-94 TOMCATS     28      23      25           29      –         105




Tomcat Shootout ready for quarterfinal round; 60-64 Tomcats draw bye

ASHLAND, Ky. – The inaugural Tomcat Shootout, a simulation tournament of teams comprised of great Ashland Tomcat basketball players going back to the 1950s, is set for the quarterfinal round.

Seven half-decade teams have emerged after winning best-of-3 series against same-decade teams.

A bye for the quarterfinal round to the semifinals was given to the 1960-1964 Tomcats through a blind draw. They will face the winner of 1970-74 and 1990-94.

“I love my 70’s guys but seems about right that the 1960-64 guys got the bye,” said super-fan Bill Bradley. “This is going to be some good basketball. Can’t wait to see how it ends up.”

The other half of the bracket has 1955-59 vs. 2015-20 and 2000-04 vs. 1980-84.

Games will be single elimination in the quarterfinals and semifinals and best-of-3 in the championship round.

The tournament will finish up about the same time “Tomcat Tales” is released. The book features the games from the simulated Sweet Sixteen and individual Tomcat teams going against each other in fantasy matchups.

Only 30 copies will be available in the first run, but more will be available soon after. Books will be $20 ($25 if shipped).


A-MAZE-ing coaching assist, Villers brothers lead to 2015-2020 sweep

ASHLAND, Ky. – A coaching assist and the high-scoring Villers brothers powered the 2015-20 Tomcats to a sweep of the 2010-14 Tomcats, advancing them to the quarterfinals of the Tomcat Shootout.

Much like in the opener of the best-of-3 series, the Villers’ trio was too much to overcome. But, also like the opener, the 2010-14 Tomcats blew a double-figure lead.

The 2015-20 Tomcats carved out a 106-96 at Anderson gym in front of a large crowd that came for some offensive fireworks.

Christian, Chase and Cole Villers combined for 61 points with the youngest brother, Cole, scoring 34 points. Christian had an off-shooting night, going 5-for-16, but added 16 points and Chase scored 11. Justin Bradley was also in double figures with 10 points and nine rebounds.

Coach Jason Mays directs traffic on the floor.

“The Villers are killers,” said 2010-14 coach Buddy Biggs. “No matter where you turned, one of them was open and shooting. I thought I was seeing double, or maybe even triple!”

The 2015-20 Tomcats started bombing from the start and connected on 13-of-33 from 3-point range. They limited the 2010-14 Tomcats to 2-of-8 from downtown. That 39-6 advantage on triples was easily the difference in the game.

“We like our threes,” said 2015-20 Tomcat coach Jason Mays. “Those guy can shoot ‘em all day long. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel for them.”

However, much like the opener, the 2010-14 Tomcats were leading late in the game. They took their largest lead at 54-43 when Tyler Stewart stroked a 17-footer from the corner with 53 seconds to play in the first half on the way to a 54-47 halftime advantage.

They lost the lead for good when Nick Miller drained a 3-pointer at the close of the third quarter to put the 2015-20 Tomcats ahead 78-76.

“Huge shot from Nick right there,” Mays said. “We needed that one to take some momentum into the fourth quarter.”

In an unusual turn, Mays was not on the bench for much of the fourth quarter after suffering from a stomach virus (his wife, Lori Beth, said it wasn’t from her cooking but something Dicky Martin made for the family). He turned the coaching duties over to Luke Maze, who got the most out of the 2015-20 Tomcats after getting in their faces a little.

“I wasn’t sure they were going to listen to me at first so I had to knock some heads together,” Maze said. “Then they listened.”

He called three timeouts in the fourth quarter and each time the team answered with a spurt, the last one allowing them to pull away for the win.

“I’ll have to watch the video to see what he did, but the kid is born to coach,” Mays said afterward. “It’s good to have a backup head coach, too. The Tomcats are fortunate to have Luke with us. He’s as much a part of this program as anybody.”

The 2015-20 Tomcats were practically flawless with only eight turnovers. Point guard Colin Porter had nine points and nine assists.

“With the way those guys shoot the ball and with the Villers brothers out there, they have a chance to win this thing,” Biggs said. “I thought we did all we could do. That three at the end of the quarter and the one to start the fourth quarter (by Ethan Hudson) put us in a hole.”

Hudson bombed one in from 25 feet and nobody blinked to make it 81-76. The 2015-20 Tomcats gradually began to pull away and led by as much as 15 points toward the end before settled for the 10-point win.

“I wanted a 20-point win,” Maze said. “But I’ll take it I guess.”

The game featured six lead changes and was tied nine times.

Three free throws from Porter, who was fouled while shooting one from 22 feet, made it 100-89 with 2:41 remaining.

“When I came back out, there was only about a minute to play,” Mays said. “I let my boy Luke finish it off. Give him the game ball for this one. He pulled us through as much as anybody.”

Corey Gregg was superb in the loss with 31 points and 18 rebounds. He also made 11 of 11 free throws. Dikembe Dixscon collected 25 points and nine rebounds, Ryan Whetsel scored 11 and Dylan Delaney 10.

“It was great playing with these guys again,” Delaney said. “They were good. Give them credit. But I love my guys too.”

A blind draw will determine the quarterfinal pairings on Saturday. Seven decades will be represented and one team will get a bye to the semifinals. It will be determined in the draw.


2015-20 TOMCATS (106) – Christian Villers 5-16 4-4 16, Hudson 2-6 0-0 6, Cole Villers 12-19 7-9 34, Chase Villers 4-6 2-4 11, Bradley 5-9 0-0 10, Miller 2-6 0-0 5, Mays 1-3 3-4 5, Porter 2-8 3-3 9, Robinson 1-4 2-2 5, Sellars 2-5 0-0 5. FG: 36-82. FT: 21-26. 3FG: 13-33 (Christian Villers 2-8, Hudson 2-6, Cole Villers 3-3, Chase Villers 1-1, Bradley 0-1, Miller 1-3, Porter 2-6, Robinson 1-4, Sellars 1-1). Rebounds: 38 (Christian Villers 6, Hudson 3, Cole Villers 6, Chase Villers 4, Bradley 9, Miller 1, Mays 5, Porter 1, Robinson 3). Assists: 16 (Christian Villers 2, Hudson 1, Cole Villers 2, Chase Villers 2, Porter 9, Robinson 1). PF: 27. Turnovers: 8.

2010-2014 TOMCATS (96) – Skaggs 1-3 1-3 3, Whetsel 4-7 2-3 11, Stewart 2-11 0-0 6, Dixson 9-14 7-11 25, Gregg 10-19 11-11 31, Delaney 4-6 2-2 10, C.Johnson 0-2 2-2 2, Friley 2-4 0-0 4, Salow 2-6 0-0 4, Withrow 1-3 0-0 2. FG: 35-75. FT: 24-31. 3FG: 2-8 (Whetsel 1-2, Stewart 0-3, Delaney 1-2). Rebounds: 47 (Skaggs 3, Whetsel 4, Stewart 5, Dixson 9, Gregg 18, Delaney 2, C.Johnson 3, Salow 1, Withrow 2). Assists: 21 (Skaggs 6, Whetsel 2, Stewart 1, Dixson 1, Salow 5, Withrow 1, Delaney 5). PF: 25. Turnovers: 13.

2015-20 TOMCATS      24         23         31         28        –      106

2010-14 TOMCATS      24         30         22         20        –     96