Advertisement

Boys Sweet Sixteen opening round: A ferocious finish: Lyons answer Tomcats' comeback with final run to advance

Mar. 20—LEXINGTON — Ashland had a different look in its eye as the team emerged from the locker room to start the second half.

Lyon County wanted to put a poor third quarter in its rearview.

The Lyons have their sights set on a state quarterfinal game after an 11-2 run over the final four minutes closed out the Tomcats.

Mr. Basketball Travis Perry didn't have to shoulder the load over the decisive closing stretch. He and Brady Shoulders scored Lyon County's last 11 points to give the Lyons a hard-fought 45-43 win on Wednesday in the opening round of the Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena.

"You are sitting there on the bench after a timeout was called and we had just scored 34 points (at that point)," Perry said before the Lyons' fourth-quarter spurt. "It was going through my head. There's no way it's going to end this way. I am happy it didn't. I knew that we were going to fight and do whatever we could. They mishandled it (on a possession) and I was able to dive and get the steal. It started the momentum for us."

Braxton Jennings hit a wide-open layup with 2:27 remaining to give Ashland a 43-42 advantage. Perry hit a free throw but after a late turnover, Lyon County held the rock for the final minute and one last shot in regulation.

Shoulders drove the lane and his spinning attempt missed its mark but the Tomcats were called for a foul. Shoulders made both attempts from the charity stripe with 3.7 seconds remaining and Ashland's final 3-point attempt near halfcourt found iron but not its target.

"We knew that Brady was a really good athlete," Ashland coach Ryan Bonner said. "We trusted that Nate (Freize) could chest him up in the paint to force a tough two. I thought he did, but we just got a call that didn't go our way. Defensively, we have been elite all year and I think that's what got us to this point. We just couldn't get over the hump when we needed to."

The state tournament provides a different measuring stick but the Tomcats still held the state's highest-scoring team to 40 points under their average. Defense has been a staple during Ashland's run to six straight region crowns.

"It was a gritty, tough and physical basketball game," Bonner said. "I thought defensively, our guys executed our game plan to perfection. Holding them to 45 points, 44% from the field and 12% from the 3-point line, I could not ask for anything more from this bunch. They have done that all year."

"Unfortunately, I think the turnovers were the difference," he continued, "especially after we made that run. They responded by really pressuring us and created some offense off that. Hats off to (Lyon County). They are a fantastic basketball team. The best we have played all year. I knew that we would come in here and have a chance to win it."

Ashland (23-11) went nearly eight minutes in the first half without scoring a point as the Lyons built a 12-point lead near halftime. It was their largest lead of the game.

The Tomcats turned to a 2-3 zone to start the third quarter and produced stops on Lyon County's first three second-half possessions and the stranglehold grew to seven holds on the first eight as Ashland started its comeback.

"I did an interview before the game and I pretty much described how that game would exactly play out," Lyon County coach Ryan Perry said. "I knew we were playing a real good Ashland team. They were well-coached and I knew they would be super prepared. Zander Carter is one of the best players in Kentucky."

"I knew the game would have a physical feel to it," he added. "The guys are smart. We knew it wouldn't be a 15 or 20-point win. ... I was super proud of my guys. We were down seven with 4 minutes remaining. To be here three years in a row and be as hungry as these guys are to win a state championship for Lyon County, it's huge. We erased a seven-point deficit in 55 seconds. That's just what these guys do."

Carter opened the third frame with a pair of baskets. Cam Davis splashed a pair of game-altering 3s and Asher Adkins flexed his muscle on both ends of the floor. He scored five straight, including an and-1 to highlight a 19-6 Ashland scoring advantage in the quarter.

"It was win or go home," Adkins said. "We were playing at the highest level. Coach said we had to come out and stop, score and stop. We had to be tougher. The tougher team would win the game. I just wanted to make a statement even if it was stepping in front of Shoulders and then taking a charge or trying to get any loose ball I could, I think this team showed its heart and that we can compete with anybody in the state. It was my goal to try and set the tone."

Ashland held its biggest lead at 41-34 midway through the final stanza. Lyon County (33-3) responded with eight straight points before Jennings's layup.

In the end, Lyon County had the ball in the right hands and Shoulders hit the final two free throws to give his team a late lead.

"We have been in that spot before," Shoulders said. "We were ready to be in that position. We really dug down late and came out on top."

Shoulders led the Lyons with 17 points. Perry added 16.

Jennings had a team-high 12 points for the Tomcats. Adkins followed right behind with 11 points and Carter added nine.

Adkins and Freize have plenty of basketball memories to share and revisit after finishing their careers at Rupp Arena.

"It's an honor to play here," Freize said. "It is something that a lot of little kids dream of. I was one of those little kids. To come here and compete at the highest level against some of the best teams in the state, there's no feeling like it. To play a team like that and play the way we did, especially against a guy like Travis Perry, the all-time leading scorer in the state, it's special. I wish I could come back here and do it again."

"I have a lot of experience playing on this floor," Adkins added, "and I've been around a successful group of players. It's a blessing that God has given me and this team to be able to be here and compete, five times for me. I am thankful for the coaching staff and these teammates. They are my brothers."

Lyon County meets the Adair County-Marshall County winner in Friday's state quarterfinals.

LYON CO. FG FT REB TP

Breedlove 1-2 0-0 1 2

Kirk 2-3 0-0 3 4

Shoulders 6-13 4-4 4 17

Reddick 2-6 0-0 2 4

Perry 7-17 1-2 5 16

Collins 0-1 0-0 2 0

Defew 1-1 0-0 2 2

Team 1

TOTAL 19-43 5-6 20 45

FG Pct: 44.2. FT Pct: 83.3. 3-point FGs: 2-16 (Shoulders 1-5, Reddick 0-4, Perry 1-7) PF: 8. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 10.

ASHLAND FG FT REB TP

Adkins 5-7 1-1 5 11

Freize 2-6 0-0 5 5

Carter 3-8 2-3 3 9

Jennings 5-8 0-0 2 12

Davis 2-4 0-0 2 6

Lalonde 0-2 0-0 0 0

Team 2

TOTAL 17-35 3-4 19 43

FG Pct: 48.8. FT Pct: 75.0. 3-point FGs: 6-16 (Adkins 0-1, Freize 1-3, Carter 1-2, Jennings 2-5, Davis 2-3, Lalonde 0-2) PF: 8. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 14.

LYON CO. 13 13 6 13 — 45

ASHLAND 7 10 19 7 — 43

Officials: Richard Lightfoot, Tyler Wimpsett, Jamian Bailey