HAYS - James Ashley scored 24 points as Starmount took the lead early and never gave it up, defeating Ashe County, 56-48, in a Mountain Valley Athletic Conference semifinal Thursday night at North Wilkes High School.
The Rams meet Alleghany, a 45-35 winner over Wilkes Central, in the other semifinal for the MVAC championship Friday night,
Starmount Coach Rocky Horton credited “really tough defense” for the win. “It was ugly. It was physical,” he said.
“We did what we had to do.”
Ashley and Josh Houser (eight points) combined for 13 of the final 17 as the Rams weathered the Huskies’ late run.
“James hit some pretty big shots for us tonight,” Horton said.
The Rams jumped out to an early 12-3 lead and led 14-5 after a period. The Huskies closed to within three, 19-16, with 3:46 to play in the first half, but Ashley hit consecutive 3s to give the Rams a 25-18 lead with 2:29 to play.
With two free throws and a fastbreak layup, Gunner Cass put the Starmount lead back to nine at 29-20 before Calder Clay’s jumper cut it to 29-22 at the intermission.
The Rams took a 10-point lead with 2:29 to play in the third quarter when Luke Shore (nine points) hit a 3 to make it 38-28.
The Huskies made it uncomfortable, cutting the Starmount lead to five with 1:54 to play (48-43) and again with 1:22 to play (50-45). The Rams had answers both times.
The biggest play of the night may have been Ashley’s steal with a minute to go that led to his own fastbreak layup and a 54-45 lead.
Starmount’s biggest lead was 11 points - a cushion they held with 3:24 to play (47-36) and again with 40 seconds to play (56-45).
It was Starmount’s third win over Ashe County this season. The won 71-50 in Boonville Jan. 15 and 59-42 in West Jefferson Feb. 10. It was a little closer Thursday night.
Devan Sheets led the Huskies with 11 points.
Friday night’s game is scheduled to tipoff at 8 at North Wilkes.
The Rams met the Trojans Monday - a 43-38 Starmount victory in Sparta. Alleghany won the matchup in Sparta, 49-42, Jan. 22.
“We know what to expect,” Horton said. “It’s going to be physical. It’ll be a dogfight for sure.”
Ashe County (10-16): Connor Bowers 3-2-9, Devan Sheets 5-0-11, Judd Price 2-1-5, Gavin Woodie 1-1-3, Calder Clay 2-0-4, Corbin Winebarger 1-0-2, Cullen Ashley 1-4-6, Bradley Lucas 1-2-4, Kendall Richardson 2-0-4. Totals: 18-FG 10-23-FT 48.
Starmount (16-8): James Ashley 9-4-24, Gunner Cass 1-2-4, Isaiah Billips 0-1-1, Luke Shore 4-0-9, Trey Bryant 2-2-6, Kyler Gregory 1-0-2, Dalton Vestal 1-0-2, Josh Houser 4-0-8. Totals: 22-FG 9-19-FT 56.
AC 5 17 11 15 - 48
S 14 15 10 17 - 56
3-Pt FG: AC 2 (Bowers, Sheets), S 3 (Ashley 2, Shore). Total Fouls: AC 20, S 20. Fouled Out: Lucas (AC), Cass (S). Technicals: None.