BELLVILLE — Ashland turned up the heat in the second half.
The Arrows outscored Clear Fork 18-5 in the third quarter and held on for a 60-47 win in non-conference action Tuesday at Les Hauenstein Gymnasium.
Offensive-minded Ashland (4-1) came in averaging more than 74 points a game, but struggled to find the range all evening. The Arrows connected on just 1 of 16 3-pointers and trailed 28-25 at the half.
“You have those nights,” Ashland coach Jason Hess said. “It’s good to be able to win games when you don’t play your best.”
Needing a spark, the Arrows deployed a full-court trapping defense to start the third quarter in an effort to speed up the Colts (1-2). The strategy worked to perfection as Clear Fork struggled against Ashland’s speedy guards.
“Their guards are a little more athletic than us,” Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel said. “I told our guys at halftime I knew they were going to come out with a lot more pressure. Unfortunately we were not able to handle what they could throw at us.”
Ashland opened the third on an 8-0 run capped by Eli White’s 3-pointer with 6:01 to play in the period, giving the Arrows a 33-28 advantage. Clear Fork stopped the bleeding momentarily when Ben Blubaugh knocked down a foul line jumper to make it 33-30, but Ashland outscored the Colts 12-3 the rest of the quarter to take a 43-33 advantage to the fourth.
“We made an adjustment at halftime and changed the look of the pressure we were giving them,” Hess said. “We felt like we had an advantage with the way some of our guys can guard on the ball and we wanted to take advantage of that.
“We were able to make a couple of baskets and set up our pressure and get up there and turn them over a few times.”
It looked like Ashland might run away with it in the early going, opening a 14-7 lead late in the first as junior sharpshooter Luke Denbow scored seven straight points. The Colts closed the first on a 4-0 run to cut Ashland’s advantage to 14-11, then outscored the Arrows 17-9 in the second.
“We got down early and they got some easy transitions,” Bechtel said. “We did a lot better job in the second quarter. We got back and played half-court defense as well as we have played it this year and possibly even last year.
“I’m very pleased with the effort and execution in some parts of the game. (Ashland) has put up 80 a couple of times and we held them to 60.”
Denbow scored 17 points for the Arrows, while sophomore guard Grayson Steury led all scorers with 21. White added 14, while Chase Hunt had eight.
Blubaugh, Jared Scott and Brady Tedrow scored 14 points apiece for the Colts.