Newport Catholic claims AIT title with win over Ashland
ASHLAND -- Newport Central Catholic took advantage of turnovers to build a lead, then simply rolled past the Ashland Tomcats, 80-61, to claim the 58th Ashland Invitational Tournament title on Saturday night at Anderson Gym.
The Tomcats (9-3) were hoping to win their showcase tournament for the first time since 2001, but will have to wait another year.
"We played a superior opponent tonight, and when you play a superior opponent, two things have to happen: you have to play your best, number one, and they have to have an off night, number two," said Ashland head coach Buddy Biggs. "Neither one of those happened. We didn't play our best, and they played pretty darn well."
Biggs started sophomore center Dikembe Dixson to get some height and length out on the floor, and the big men for the Thoroughbreds did struggle with foul trouble.
But when Newport (11-0) switched up personnel, tournament MVP Michael Bueter and fellow guard Zack Pangallo started knocking down shots and the Tomcats could not claw their way back into the game.
"When you have a great team, you have balance," Biggs said. "It's kind of pick your poison with them."
Bueter finished with 19 points, tied for a game-high with teammate Drew McDonald, and Pangallo had 17.
The Tomcats held a lead in the second quarter, when the Thoroughbreds went on a 12-0 run fueled by Ashland turnovers, taking a 32-25 advantage before Zach Hart finally answered with a two to stop the bleeding.
"We went on that run without our MVP Michael Bueter, he was on the bench for about three minutes, and we just decided we were going to go with that lineup," Newport coach Grant Brannen said. "Zack Pangallo really stepped up there and we were able to do a lot off of those turnovers."
The Tomcats turned the ball over 15 times in the first half, compared to four in the second. But by then it was too late.
Logan Salow drained a three at the buzzer to bring the Tomcats within striking distance at 39-32 at the half.
But the Thoroughbreds would out score Ashland 22-11 in the third quarter, putting the game out of reach.
"I feel like we had some momentum going into the locker room," Biggs said. "We just didn't come back out."
Brannen said winning the AIT was icing on an already sweet experience.
"Just getting in such a great, traditional tournament was a huge deal," Brannen said. "I was talking with my dad before, just looking at the AIT board, and seeing all of the great NBA and college players who have played in this tournament, it's just an honor for us to be here."
Russell won the consolation game, defeating South Laurel 74-59.
In afternoon action, Boyd County beat Sheldon Clark 63-46 and Henderson County topped West Jessamine, 56-52.
ASHLAND 17 15 11 18 -- 61: Stewart 11, Salow 9, Friley 8, Rose 3, Hart 7, Harshaw 3, Dixson 5, Miller 15.
NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC: 18 21 22 19 -- 80: Pangallo 17, Bueter 19, Seibert 10, Devoto 2, Haas 2, Shlte 9, McDonald 19, Weyer 2.