The Ashville Bulldogs are headed to the Northeast Regional Tournament.
They play Pisgah today at 1:30 p.m. at Pete Mathews Coliseum on the campus of Jacksonville State University.
To get to JSU, the Bulldogs held on to defeat Piedmont 65-63 last week in a game that came down to the final shot. With the win, Ashville improved to 19-11.
Friday’s sub-regional was a game of runs — Ashville led 27-6 in the second quarter, in what appeared to be a runaway. Piedmont then went on a 14-0 to make it 27-20.
“We knew they were a good team,” Ashville coach Anthony Rice said. “We knew that we were in a battle for 32 minutes.”
Rice is glad his guys came out hot, and grabbed the early lead.
Ashville led 5-0 two minutes into the game. They stretched the lead to 10-2 at the halfway point. When Ray Harris sank a trey with three seconds left in the opening quarter, it gave the Bulldogs a 20-6 lead.
Ashville was clicking on all cylinders, and opened the second stanza on a 7-0 run to make it 27-6. That’s when Piedmont went on its 14-0 run.
With 3:08 remaining before halftime, Damien Bothwell stopped the bleeding with a bank shot off the glass to make it 29-20. By halftime, Ashville had stretched the lead back to 39-28.
Piedmont opened the third quarter on an 11-6 run to cut the Ashville lead to 45-39. Damien Bothwell then picked up his fourth foul with 2:06 remaining in the third quarter, and he had to go to the bench. Ashville was already without the services of E.J. Moss, who broke his hand against Saks the week before the area tournament.
With 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Piedmont took its first lead of the game at 47-46. They outscored Ashville 19-7 in the third frame.
“We had one of those quarters where our shots just did not fall,” Rice said. “They pressed us, and caused us to turn the ball over several times.”
With 6:49 remaining, Alex Looney hit a trey to tie the game at 49-49. Harris hit a shot to give Ashville the lead back at 51-49. Ashville ended up on a 9-0 run to take a 55-49 lead with 3:12 remaining.
Ashville led 63-57 with a minute left, but in 20 seconds, Piedmont hit two shots to make it 63-61.
Leading 65-63 with just over five seconds remaining, Piedmont pushed the ball down the court following a free throw by William Johnson. They attempted a trey at the buzzer, but the shot did not fall, and Ashville held on to the victory.
Rice said he was pleased to get the victory against Piedmont because they ended Ashville’s season the past two years.
“I’m proud of the way our kids hung in there,” Rice said. “I’m proud of our kids for the way they kept fighting.”
Four Ashville players scored in double figures and leading the way was Alex Looney with 21 points, including three treys. Damien Bothwell pumped in 17 points while Harris added 13 points. Marcellus Brown netted 12 points. Johnson finished the game with two points.
As he talked about Pisgah, Rice said watching film on them is the wildest thing he has ever seen.
“They play 10 to 11 players, running them in and out of the game a lot,” Rice said. “They press and trap the entire game, the full length of the court.
“If we can control the ball, and keep turnovers to a minimum, we have a chance to beat them. I believe our starting five can put a lot of pressure on them. We are bigger than they are.”