Gene Phelps | Special to the Gazette
OXFORD – It was never going to be easy to replace “daddy.”
However, that was never Jonathan Ashley’s intentions when he took over the reins from his legendary father, Norris, in 2012 as head coach of the storied Ingomar Falcons boys basketball program.
The elder Ashley won nine state championships and a Grand Slam coaching boys and girls basketball during his 41-year tenure at the Union County school.
Thursday afternoon, in The Pavilion at Ole Miss, the daddy was there to watch the son win his first state championship with Ingomar’s thrilling 47-45 victory against Baldwyn in the MHSAA 1A State Tournament.
“This makes me want to blow up with pride for Jonathan,” said a wheelchair-bound Norris Ashley, moments after the Falcons hoisted the gold ball. “We did what we had to do to win the game.”
Baldwyn had tied the score at 45-all with eight seconds remaining. Jonathan Ashley didn’t call a timeout. Instead, his players knew to inbound the ball and run with it. It’s something they’ve worked on in practice many times. A timeout gives an opponent time to set up a defensive scheme.
Junior guard Zach Shugars – on a pass from point guard Hunter Bynum – nailed a buzzer-beating jumper for the game-winner.
“That’s the best way to do it … get it and go,” Norris Ashley said.
Jonathan Ashley has watched his father battle numerous health issues the last few years. When the MHSAA decided to move the finals to Ole Miss, the son promised his father a trip to The Pavilion … to see Ingomar play.
“He’s never been to The Pavilion,” Jonathan said. “I told him last year when he was in the hospital, ‘We’re going to get you better, get you well and get you out of here. We’re going to see if we can get you over there to see what it looks like.’
“He got to come today. It’s really special … as sick as daddy’s been the last few years.”
Jonathan was 0-3 in championship games – two at Myrtle and one at Ingomar last season – headed into the game against Baldwyn.
“There were days when I thought we’d never win one,” he said.
“I’m glad we got to get Coach Ashley his first (state title). We wanted to do it for him more than for ourselves. He’s a little psycho with the running, but we love him,” senior forward Clayton Stanford, the game’s MVP said, then smiled.