ASHLAND — The Wooster High School boys basketball team knew it had a job to do on the glass against Ashland Friday night in Arrow Arena, and the Generals were more than up to the task.
Winning the rebounding battle by a whopping 45-23 margin, Wooster limited Ashland’s second-chance attempts to a minimum in an 81-72 win in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.
Ashland (11-6, 6-3), which lost 6-foot-4 senior center Luke Jurjevic last week to a knee injury in an overtime win over Madison, just could not contend with the taller Generals (7-9, 5-6).
“We’ve had a disadvantage all year and the disadvantage just got bigger when we lost Luke Jurjevic, but that’s been an Achilles' heel for us all year,” Ashland coach Jason Hess said. “We’ve got to somehow find a way to get rebounds with the guys we’ve got. I thought our defensive effort was good, [but] we just had some possessions we didn’t finish.
“And it also gets harder on our offense when we lose our third scorer and that inside presence to score in the paint.”
Conversely, Wooster was able to take advantage of the size difference to the extreme as 6-6 senior forward Micah McKee paced the Generals with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
But the Generals also got considerable contributions from junior Blake Bowen (20 points, five rebounds), Drew Dossi (14 points, five rebounds), Kaiden Roscoe (six points, five rebounds), Jack Williams (seven points), Zach Harpster (six points) and Luke Snowbarger (three points, four rebounds).
“We knew we had to beat them up on the boards, we had to crash the offensive boards— and give our kids credit because it’s one thing to talk about it, and it’s another thing to do it,” Wooster coach Michael Snowbarger said. “And I thought our kids were relentless on the boards. Kaiden Roscoe came in an gave us great minutes, Luke Snowbarger came in and got 4-5 boards in the first couple of minutes he played.
"So it was a great team effort, and as we move on I’d still like to see a little more movement in the half-court on the offensive side, but we’re getting there.”
Denbow, Steury’s long-range antics kept Ashland close
Senior Luke Denbow and junior Grayson Steury (three steals) kept Ashland in step with Wooster throughout the game by scoring from deep. Denbow paced all players with 34 points and Steury added 28 points, with each player draining six 3-pointers.
With a third-quarter assist, Denbow also become Ashland's all-time leader in career assists, topping Jerome Anderson’s mark of 447 set 21 years ago. Denbow finished the game with 449 assists.
Kamden Mowry (five), Jack Swaisgood (three) and Keslar Bates (two) scored a combined 10 points, with Bates also leading the way with five rebounds.
“I thought offensively when we were making shots early on you feel good and everything looks good, but you just can’t live by 35 feet away all night long,” Hess said. “Those aren’t real high-percentage shots, especially if you’re giving up layups. We’ve got to do a little better job executing to get some shots for our scorers.
“I thought at times we were moving the ball around pretty well and the ball was coming around to Grayson and those were pretty good shots for us. And other times, we were shooting some contested shots that just aren’t high percentage.”
Ashland led 21-16 at the end of the first quarter and 41-39 at the half, but Wooster outscored the Arrows 21-12 in the third quarter to go up 60-53.
Steury stole the ball and went in for a layup to pull Ashland to within 65-63 with 5:14 left, but went the Generals went on an 11-2 run to take a 76-65 lead with 46 seconds to play on two free throws by Williams.
Wooster connected on 10 of 15 free throws in the final quarter.
“It was a good win for us and, more importantly, this is the second game in a row we shot free throws down the stretch to close the game,” coach Snowbarger said. “Last week against Mount Vernon we were 14 of 15 on the game and tonight we were 18 of 23. Going into these last two games we were 52 percent at the line as a team.
“So the kids are continuing to get confidence, continuing to grow. And like we’ve been talking all year, we want to be playing our best basketball in February. We understand the conference is kind of a long shot for us right now, but we’ve got to continue to play our best and improve as we move along into February.”
This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: Luke Denbow sets Ashland assists record in loss to Wooster