ASHLAND - Boyd County had to earn its opening-round win to begin the 63rd Ashland Invitational Tournament.
The Lions cashed in all their free ones in the final quarter to thwart a final Mason County rally and pull away for an 82-74 win on Wednesday afternoon at Anderson Gym.
The Royals closed the gap to two points on three different occasions in the fourth frame, but Boyd County stepped to the charity stripe and nailed all 14 attempts in the stanza to maintain the advantage.
Lions coach Randy Anderson felt like the free-throw line would be an important component.
“After the first game (of the season), we were 12-for-27,” Anderson said. “We have shot them well -- 74 or 75 percent. Mason County is a team of runs. We watched some film and watched them when they played East Carter. They are usually really good in the third quarter. We knew that they had some runs in them. We are starting to learn some poise, patience and getting the ball where it needs to get.”
Boyd County’s Reese Robinson led all scorers with 27 points, 22 coming in the second half. The senior recorded eight of the Lions’ first 10 points of the fourth to increase his team’s lead to 70-62.
“When we went to Pikeville a couple of weeks ago, he really played well up there,” Anderson said. “He has that capability every night because of his athleticism and his skill. He played well tonight.”
Boyd County (7-3) jumped out to an early 14-4 lead five minutes into the game. Mason County coach Buddy Biggs wasn’t pleased with his team’s energy early on.
“We didn’t quit, and we fought back,” Biggs said. “We just dug ourselves too big of a hole. We didn’t get off the bus ready to play. We were down eight to 10 points right off the bat. We just didn’t have that energy level until it was too late.”
The Royals opened in a 2-3 zone, but the Lions found offensive success with senior forward Gunner Short in the high post. Mason County (7-4) switched to full court man-to-man and it produced better results.
“I thought it was much better in the second half,” Biggs said of the defense. “We just have to keep digging and keep fighting. We will find a way.”
Boyd County placed five in double figures. Joining Robinson were Short with 15, Blake Stewart (14), Taylor Smith (11) and Talbott Taylor (10).
Levi Dunaway led the Royals with 24 points. Jeremiah Jones had 14, Caleb Boyd recorded 13 and Jayden Steward connected for 12.
Boyd County faces Vestavia Hills in tonight’s first semifinal at 7. Mason County opens the second day of the tournament with Owensboro Catholic at 2:30.