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By DAVE TAYLOR
The mascot moniker is a misnomer. While Ashland Blazer’s boys’ basketball team is known as the Tomcats, their coed equivalents are known on the basketball court as the Kittens. But in Wednesday’s title matchup of the North American Stainless/Carroll County Tourism Basketball Classic, these Kittens fought like alley cats in what local fans hoped would be a real cat fight with the Carroll County Lady Panthers.
The Kittens came out with claws bared and quickly scratched their way into a comfortable advantage before purring to a 19-point win to claim the tournament championship.
“They jumped all over us,” Carroll County Head Coach Randy Mefford said after watching his team fall 56-37. “They’re a real good basketball team. They took us out of everything we wanted to try to do. We knew they were going to press us hard and it seemed like they had six or seven girls out there on the court. We threw the ball all over the gym and got into what I call panic mode. It wasn’t pretty.”
Ashland fronted by a 51-21 score after three quarters of play before the reserves came on the floor for the finish. The Lady Panthers mounted a rally in the final eight minutes to outscore the Kittens 16-5, but the effort came too late to make a difference.
“They’re a quality basketball team—the best team we’ve played this year. We didn’t compete as well as I had hoped we would tonight.”
Mefford pointed to his team’s offensive limitations, citing 19 turnovers in the first half. He acknowledged that the team mentality is to depend too heavily on leading scorer Hannah Devine.
“They’re throwing the ball to Hannah instead of trying to do something for themselves,” he said. “They’re trying to throw it to her all the time and she cannot do it all by herself. I need some other kids to drive it to the basket and even if you mess up try to do something. For us to be a better basketball team we can’t rely on just one person all the time.”
Devine led all scorers with 21 points and was the only Lady Panther in double figures. Scoring four points each were seniors Jill Butcher, Kyndal Curry and Tasha Hunter. Devine, Curry and Hunter were named to the All-Tournament Team from Carroll County. Kaylyn Gambill scored 17 and Mykal Farris added 10 to lead the well-balanced Kittens offense.
Mefford, speaking in his role as Carroll County High School Athletic Director, had words of praise for the tournament sponsors.
“North American Stainless and Carrollton/Carroll County Tourism are great sponsors and without their support we couldn’t do a tournament like this,” he said. “It’s been a lot of basketball for the community to come out and watch. There have been a lot of visitors in our city staying in our motels.”
Mefford said all of the team representatives he had spoken with from the various schools involved told him they had really enjoyed themselves being in the Carrollton/Carroll County area.
“I just want to show my appreciation to North American Stainless and Carrollton/Carroll County Tourism for making this possible,” Mefford said. “Our attendance was really good. I don’t have those numbers finalized yet but it was really good attendance this year. The people in our community really enjoy coming to this tournament.”