After being invited to participate in the 34th Annual Frank Spencer Holiday Classic, the Huskies defended their invitation with a 59-56 victory over North Forsyth.
Ashe entered the Spencer Classic being voted the fourth seed based on their performance in the off-season summer games. Ashe was paired with the winner of the fifth ranked North Forsyth, and twelfth ranked Atkins, which was played on December 19 at North Forsyth.
In the Ashe-North Forsyth match up, the Huskies preserved an early lead and with a 59-56 victory moved into the semi-finals.
Ashe’s victory set the first team into the semi-finals, where they awaited the winner of Mt. Tabor and Parkland. Mt. Tabor was able to pull away from Parkland for a 66-55 victory, marking the semi-finals on Saturday for Ashe and Mt. Tabor.
Mt. Tabor, a NCHSAA classification 4A team, competes in the Central Piedmont Conference, and has accrued an 8-1 record on the season entering the Spencer Classic.
After the Parkland victory, and a 64-50 victory over Ashe in the semi-finals, Mt. Tabor’s record has increased to 10-1 on the season.
Mt. Tabor has been credited as a 4A NCHSAA title contender by many sources, and is the defending Spencer Holiday Classic Champion with a 30-28 overall record in the tournament and four titles in 22 appearances.
Ashe held tough with Mt. Tabor, but C.J. Harris, a signee to Wake Forest led Mt. Tabor down the stretch for the victory.
Some key notes of the history of the tournament is that North Forsyth, the team Ashe defeated in the quarter-finals has the highest number of appearances in the finals of the Spencer Classic, along with the most titles won, and the most players selected as MVP’s of the Spencer Classic.
In the victory over North Forsyth, Daniel Waln and Tommy Spagnolo fueled the Huskies’ performance. Spagnolo scored a commanding 19 points in the match up, while Waln contributed 11 points. Jamel Simms, a sophomore from North Forsyth captured the high scorer with 23 points in the contest.
The game was even from start to finish. The Huskies managed to grab a seven-point lead at the end of the first quarter, 17-10, but never led by more than seven in the quarter.
The battle heated up in the second quarter, when both teams fought neck-and-neck for the eight minutes. North cut their deficit to three points at 19-16, but then Ashe pulled out to a 27-18 lead with two minutes left in the half.
North would make another run, coming within three points again, 27-24 at this point, but only score two more points in the final minute. Hamm closed the half out with a basket with one second remaining, giving the Huskies a 33-26 lead at the intermission, as both teams had scored 16 points in the period.
In the third quarter, North outscored the Huskies for the only time of the game, with a 13-9 margin, cutting their deficit to only two points heading into the final period, 27-25.
In the fourth and final period, Ashe and North were once again neck-and-neck, each scoring 17 points in the final eight minutes.
Waln swished down two three pointes early in the quarter, stretching Ashe’s lead to 48-41. After a North basket, Jordan Nichols responded with two of his six points in the contest to maintain the Huskies’ seven-point advantage.
North was then able to score five unanswered points, and brought the game within two points, 50-48 with over four minutes remaining in the game. Ashe would gain a seven-point lead with 2:45 remaining in the game after a basket by Tavin Holman at 56-49, and North would once again rally and brought the game within one point, 57-56.
Tatum Lemly sank two free throws with 31.1 seconds left to give Ashe a 59-56 lead, and Ashe’s defense held tough for the next possession for North.
Spagnolo got fouled on Ashe’s following possession, but missed both free throws, to return possession to North with 9.5 seconds left in the game.
North moved the ball down the court and Gerry Hairston, a junior for North, gets a three pointer off with three seconds left, that hits the rim, but rebounds away, giving Ashe the final 59-56 victory after a hard fought game.
Leading Ashe was Spagnolo with 19, and Waln followed with 11. Tavin Holman, Jordan Nichols, and Greyson Wells each scored six points, Dustin Hamm added five points, Tucker Clay scored four points, and Tatum Lemly scored two points.
The victory moved Ashe to the semi-finals where they met Mt. Tabor High School. Entering the tournament, Mt. Tabor had an 8-1 record, and now stands at 10-1 following the 64-50 victory over Ashe.
C.J. Harris, a senior who has signed to play for Wake Forest, was a force for Mt. Tabor that Ashe could not control. Harris exited the game with 25 points, a game high, and scored ten of them in the final period.
Despite Harris’ stand-out performance, Ashe came out strong, and with the scoring of Tatum Lemly, in just his second start of the season, and Jordan Nichols, grabbed an 8-2 lead. Lemly scored the first six points for Ashe off of two huge three pointers, and Nichols added two points for Ashe’s biggest lead of the game.
Mt. Tabor would retaliate and take their first substantial lead of the game in the closing seconds of the first quarter with a 18-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Ashe was able to cut Mt. Tabor’s lead from six points, to five points by scoring 11 points as a team. Lemly continued to shine for Ashe as he scored seven of his 18 points in the quarter, including a three pointer at the 4:10 mark to give Ashe a 21-18 lead.
Mt. Tabor’s defense shut the Huskies down for the remainder of the first half, as they limited the Huskies’ to only two points in the final four minutes. Lemly scored the points with 1:50 remaining to give Ashe a 23-22 lead, but then Mt. Tabor ended the half on a 6-0 run for a 28-23 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Ashe continued to stay with Mt. Tabor, but could not make key stops to bring the score closer. Ashe was able to cut their deficit to three points after the first possession of the third quarter, but that was the closest they would come, and the score stood at 42-36, Mt. Tabor’s advantage, entering the fourth and final quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Ashe seemed to either wear down, or Mt. Tabor hit an offensive explosion. Ashe had held Mt. Tabor to 18 points or less per period in the first three. In the fourth period, Mt. Tabor scored 22 points, while only allowing 14 for Ashe, giving them the final 64-50 victory.
Leading Ashe was Lemly with 18 points in an impressive game that included four three pointers for the senior. Following Lemly was Waln with 12 points, Tavin Holman with eight, Spagnolo with six, Jordan Nichols, Darren Green, and Brandon Lucas with two points each.
Despite the loss, many positives came out of the game for Ashe. The main positive is a showing of the quality, and caliber that the Huskies’ team possesses this year by being able to be competitive with a 4A state contender. Also, the well roundedness of the Huskies, as Spagnolo, the traditionally leading scorer, scoring only six points in the loss, and Ashe still being able to remain in the game.
Another aspect was the loss was that the Huskies were able to record 11 assists against a stout Mt. Tabor defense, and also create 14 steals against their disciplined offense.
The loss for Ashe moved them to the Third Place Game scheduled for Monday against R.J. Reynolds.
Reynolds is entering the third place game due to a 67-58 loss to West Forsyth in the other semi-finals game on Saturday. Reynolds possesses a 6-4 record, and defeated Carver in the quarterfinals on Friday with a 57-37 final score.
The results of the Ashe-Reynolds game were unavailable at press time. Check in Friday’s edition of the Jefferson Post for results.