Ashland Invitational set for play
ASHLAND -- The oldest continuing boys basketball tournament in the state of Kentucky tips off Thursday afternoon.
When Newport Central Catholic takes on Boyd County at Paul G. Blazer High School at 4 p.m., it will mark the opening of the 58th annual Ashland Invitational Tournament.
The tournament was supposed to begin at 2:30 p.m. with South Laurel taking on Henderson County, but Henderson will not play until Friday evening because of weather conditions in western Kentucky.
"They got about eight to 10 inches of snow, and they can't really get the buses out for Thursday," said Ashland Tomcats head coach Buddy Biggs.
Having coached Ashland since the 2005-06 season, Biggs knows how important the tournament is to the surrounding community, and the Kentucky high school basketball community in general.
"It is one of the premiere regular season tournaments in all of Kentucky," Biggs said. "There was a time when it was No. 1, no doubt. But, now, you have all of these Christmas tournaments going on. Even with that, the committee has been able to find great teams to come and play year in and year out, and it's the oldest, and still, to me, the best tournament in the state."
The prestige of hosting such a great tradition aside, Biggs is just glad the tournament is starting because it gives his team three home games starting Thursday night and wrapping up Saturday night.
The Tomcats were 7-0 before losing twice last week by narrow margins to Lawrence County (79-74) and Boone County (71-69) in the Raceland Derby Classic at Raceland-Worthington High School.
"I think it gives us a lift just to be at home," Biggs said. "That's the main thing. We've only played one of nine games at home.
"So, regardless of what happens, we'll play three great teams on our floor and that will only make us better."
It also gives Biggs a good look at the local competition in Region 16.
"Russell and Boyd County are in it, so that's three days of scouting right there instead of having to jump in the car and drive all over the place," the coach said with a laugh.
Regardless of the advantages, Biggs is happy that the AIT still provides quality high school basketball and a guaranteed packed gymnasium at Paul Blazer.
"It means a lot," he said. "And the field is always so tough. If you think about it, Ashland has only won the AIT 13 times in 58 years. That alone should tell you how tough the field is."