HED:Ashland's patience pays off with Class 2A crown
By D.E. Wheeler
JACKSON The championship game of the Class 2A State Tournament was an example of why Northeast Missisippi basketball is so much fun neither team left anything on the court.
With two starters having fouled out, the Booneville Blue Devils made an amazing eight-point comeback in a two-minute span. But in the end Thursday night at the Mississippi Coliseum, the Ashland Blue Devils regained their composure and the lead in the final seconds for a 73-69 win.
"We were just running our offense," Ashland coach Jon Ginn said of Quent Gillespie's go-ahead basket with 21 seconds left. "We wanted to run our passing game for a layup only."
It wasn't quite a layup, but Gillespie's drive into the lane and resulting basket gave Ashland, the Daily Journal's No. 2-ranked team, a 71-69 lead. Then the Ashland press caused a turnover, and Garrett Terry's layup with 10 seconds left set off a wild celebration by the Ashland faithful.
"You've got to hand it to Booneville, they got us out of our game for about six minutes," Ginn said.
Trailing 55-45 early in the final period and 65-57 after Gillespie's driving baseline bucket with 3:46 left, Booneville dug in its heels for one last effort.
With Josh Leach and Robert Miller having fouled out, Booneville started its comeback with two free throws by Raji Shinault. With the help of four Ashland turnovers, Ricky Miller's two free throws with 1:56 left tied the game at 67-67.
Ashland stayed patient, and Tavares Reaves scored off a nice assist by Gillespie with 1:03 left. But Booneville freshman Bryant Tynes made a quick drive to the bucket, and his layup knotted the score at 69-69 with 51 seconds left.
Again Ashland remained patient, running its offense until Gillespie's winning points.
"We have a motto that says leave it on the floor," Booneville coach Rick Howell said. "That's the way our kids played tonight.
"Ashland's just so quick and good. Either team could have won tonight."
Ashland moved to a quick 9-3 lead, but two 3-pointers by Mitch Howell pushed Booneville ahead 15-14 by the end of the period. Reaves got hot for Ashland in the second quarter, scoring 11 points in the period as Ashland took a 42-33 halftime lead.
"I thought the first half won us the ball game," Ginn said. "The pressure we put on them was key, then we kept cool at the end when we could have folded."