Colonels hold off Tomcats rally for win

Jan. 27—ASHLAND — A noon tip didn't require a wake-up call for the two teams inside Anderson Gym on Saturday.

Ashland started to stir in the second half but the shooting touch would never fully awaken during a late rally against Covington Catholic.

The Tomcats were 8 of 28 from the field over the final two quarters yet still managed to cut their deficit to one with 2:24 left to play.

The Colonels responded with an 8-2 run in the closing moments, mostly at the free throw line, to hold on for a 59-52 win over Ashland.

"I couldn't ask much more from our group defensively," Ashland coach Ryan Bonner said. "The effort, intensity and focus were there from start to finish. We gave (Caden) Miller some easy ones, but against a player of that caliber, you are going to give up some easy baskets. We battled with him on the glass. We just couldn't hit enough shots to get us over the hump when we needed to today."

Covington Catholic had to answer several challenges by the Tomcats during the game. The Colonels found themselves down 9-2 early and didn't seem to flinch when Ashland scored the first six points of the second half to tie the game at 33-33.

The Colonels also had to endure two games in 16 hours. The quick turnaround included a long bus ride.

"It was a great challenge after we played last night at Northern Kentucky University," Covington Catholic coach Scott Ruthsatz said. "It's a big floor and it was against one of our rivals. We had to get up in the morning and have a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride. We talked more about mental toughness than anything. Ashland is always going to be physically tough. Our response was really good."

"They also a response," he added. "Ashland cut it to one. But I love how our guys responded and the way our perimeter defense played."

After the Tomcats' scoring surge out of the break, Tyson Lalonde splashed a triple to stake Ashland to a one-point advantage. It would be the last time the Tomcats held a lead.

Covington Catholic (17-5) scored the next eight points and 10 of the final 12 in the third quarter. Brady Hussey highlighted the spurt with a runner and a 3-pointer. Miller punctuated it with a two-handed slam plus a bucket in the lane to give the Colonels a 45-38 margin heading into the final quarter.

"If they get by you, we had Caden in the middle," Ruthsatz said about his defensive pressure. "A couple of times, they did a nice job of driving and dumping it down. They can get back a lot quicker quicker with 3s than twos. Let's run a good offense and get to the free throw line or get a bucket. We had to get back on defense and keep that clock running."

Miller recorded a double-double with 21 points and 20 rebounds. The 6-foot-9 senior made nine of his 14 field goal attempts and added three blocks. Hussey collected 18 points. Athens McGillis made clutch free throws down the stretch and finished with eight.

"You have to pay attention to (Miller) in the post," Ruthsatz said. "And when that opens up, we have some nice cutters and we can get guys open shots. We were able to hit those. It does open up a lot because when you double-team him, somebody is open. As long as we move the ball, we will be fine."

Miller became a point of emphasis for the Tomcats. The defensive mentality had a major impact on the comeback.

"We wanted to be physical and push him off the sweet spots in the post," Bonner said. "We had to have two bodies on him when he caught the ball even if it meant him skipping out and giving up a contested shot or a close-out situation.

"I thought we came out ready to play, no questions asked," Bonner said. "I was pleased with that. Since mid-January, it's been about being better in the first four minutes of the game. We also got four straight stops to start the second half. You couldn't ask for anything better defensively. Our mindset was there. Our mentality, our physicality and energy were great. It just boiled down to not making shots."

Ashland (13-6) had one more run left in it during the late stages of the fourth frame. Nate Freize scored a layup off a dish from Zander Carter. Asher Adkins followed with a 3 and a free throw to shrink the gap to 51-50.

The Tomcats had good looks over the final eight minutes but the ball couldn't find the bottom of the net. The Colonels were 8 of 10 at the charity stripe to close out the game after the winding clock forced Ashland to foul.

The Tomcats had three players in the double figures. Adkins led the way with 16 points. Lalonde netted 14 and Carter had 12.

Ashland missed the outside shooting of Braxton Jennings who missed his second game due to an illness. Adkins returned to the lineup and added a key component on the floor.

"Asher can solve a lot of matchup issues," Bonner said. "During a time out, he was ready to guard the big Miller kid. It's just who he is on the court. He can match up 1 through 5 defensively. He was great today on offense for us. If he can give us that every night, that will help us be great when we need to be. He plays hard and inspired on every single possession. He instills that mindset in the other four guys."


McGillis 1-6 6-8 3 8

Harney 2-6 0-0 6 5

Miller 9-14 3-6 20 21

Johnson 2-5 0-0 5 5

Wermuth 0-0 0-0 0 0

Bradshaw 0-0 0-0 0 0

Hussey 7-12 2-2 2 18

Ruthsatz 1-2 0-0 2 2

Kruer 0-0 0-0 0 0

Team 1

TOTAL 22-45 11-16 39 59

FG Pct: 48.9. FT Pct: 68.8. 3-point Fgs: 4-13 (McGillis 0-3, Harney 1-1, Johnson 1-3, Hussey 2-5, Ruthsatz 0-1) PF: 15. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 8


Carter 4-13 4-8 6 12

Lalonde 5-11 0-0 1 14

Adkins 5-10 3-4 3 16

Davis 0-4 0-0 1 0

Freize 3-10 0-0 7 7

Lyons 1-2 0-0 0 3

Clarke 0-2 0-0 3 0

Bechtel 0-1 0-0 1 0

Team 3

TOTAL 18-53 7-12 25 52

FG Pct: 33.9. FT Pct: 58.3. 3-point Fgs: 9-30 (Carter 0-3, Lalonde 4-10, Adkins 3-5, Davis 0-3, Freize 1-6, Lyons 1-2, Clarke 0-1) PF: 12. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 4.

C. CATHOLIC 16 17 12 14 — 59

ASHLAND 16 11 11 14 — 52

Officials: Jeff Adkins, P.D. Harris, Dave Anderson

(606) 326-2671 —