LEXINGTON -- If you are an opposing basketball player, Luke Denbow takes offense at your offense.
The 6-1 junior point guard, a Division I All-Ohioan last year, averages 20 points a game for the Ashland Arrows. He hit that average in a 65-52 win at Lexington on Tuesday night.
But it's Denbow's relentless, aggressive, in-your-face defense that triggers his offense -- and sparks an Ashland team now 10-2 overall and 5-1 in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.
Denbow, who has been on the varsity roster since his freshman year, leads a smothering full-court Ashland defense, picking up eight steals of his own as Lexington committed more than two dozen turnovers in falling to 3-5 overall and 0-4 in the OCC.
Ashland coach Jason Hess knows he has a real pick-pocket in his point guard.
"Luke is really a special player in his willingness and desire to guard. He gets a lot of accolades, a lot of recognition, for his scoring. But his energy and motor on defense and his ability to guard without fouling is really what makes us go," Hess said.
"We like the fast break, we liked to play in transition. But if you can't speed teams up and play fast on defense, you can't play fast on offense. Luke really leads us on the defensive end, as much as he does on the offensive," Hess said.
Denbow plays an emotional, fiery game, showing his heart as much as his quick hands.
"He is a competitor and that's what you love in any of your kids is the desire to go out there and compete. He likes to accept the challenge. Sometimes it gets into more one-on-one matchups than he should, but it's definitely a motivational tool," Hess said.
Lexington coach Scott Hamilton's young team, a roster with only senior, led 8-0 early and trailed just 51-47 with 5:02 left in the fourth quarter. But they couldn't protect the ball from Denbow's quick hands, turning the ball over 15 times in the second half.
"(Denbow) gets after it. He gambles a lot and it works out for him. He's quick, he really is. He's a nice point guard, when you can defend like that and sit down and apply that kind of pressure," Hamilton said.
"I don't know if he's shifty or sneaky, but when you turn away from, he is quick enough to get you from behind. He's got the kind of quickness that if you're not prepared for it, he's going to get a couple of those. He is definitely a tough matchup," Hamilton said.
"He's kind of waited his turn to be the guy. Now he does what he wants to do and comes up with a lot of steals and even loose balls. And offensively, he is running the show," Hamilton said.
Senior Eli White and sophomore Grayson Steury each had 14 points for Ashland. Junior Luke Jurjevic had 10.
Sophomore Hudson Moore led Lexington with 18 points. Junior Caden Eichler had 11 and sophomore Braden Forup added 10.
Hamilton continues to see slow progress from a team whose schedule has been vastly altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're learning both offensively and defensively. For about three quarters tonight, I thought we did a really nice job. And then in that fourth quarter, those turnovers led directly to lay-ups. That was too much to dig out from," Hamilton said.
"The thing that I like is that we are getting better defensively. We're realizing assignments and what we need to do. We're not where we need to be, but we are getting a little bit better on that side of the ball.
"Offensively, I'm seeing some growth in confidence. We're seeing a little bit of versatility. I am seeing a lot of growth in that way. It's happening, but it's happening at a very slow pace. I'm okay with that, as long as it's happening the right way," Hamilton said.