'75 CATS
Posted Wednesday, March 3, 2010 10:19 PM

I can remember going to this game in Morehead.

This is from a Mark Maynard column in the Independent:


Soaring in '75

Fairview took flight after upset in first round of region shook things up

It was 1975 and it was supposed to be the Year of the Tomcat.

Supposed to be.

Before the season, Ashland looked imposing to anyone in the 16th Region. They had experience, size, shooters and tradition.

And, it seemed, few challengers.

The regular season went true to form with the Tomcats not losing a game to a region opponent. As a matter of fact, nobody came closer than 17 points.

So it was reasonable to assume that when the regional tournament started, the Tomcats would be an overwhelming favorite.

Ashland’s lineup included 6-foot-6 Steve Kovach, 6-3 Mark Collins, 6-3 Bobby Fosson, 6-4 Jimmy Mann and 6-3 Brian Salyer. No team in the region could match them in size. Off the bench came Jim Harkins, Greg Estep and David Small. So depth was a strength, too.

The Tomcats coach was Steve Gilmore, who today is the “coach” over the entire Ashland school system as superintendent.

Ashland had played four of the region foes five times. The Tomcats had beaten Greenup County by 41, Boyd County by 43 and 17, West Carter by 35 and Fairview by 17.

A day before the tournament opened, a story in The Independent had a headline that read: “16th Region Question: Can the Ashland Tomcats Be Beaten?”

The answer turned out to be yes.

Greenup County upset the Tomcats 49-46 in the opening round, turning a tournament that looked one-sided into a wide-open affair.

The Musketeers, coached by Jerry Umberger who would later coach the Tomcats, did it with patience and a star named Steve Skaggs.

Ashland defeated Greenup County 89-48 in the regular season meeting so Umberger knew running with the Tomcats wasn’t the answer. He unveiled his plan to the

Musketeers the day before the tournament opened. Only four players had shown up for practice two days earlier because of snow. But the offense was put in place the next day. The offense was geared to take away Ashland’s running game and allow Skaggs, who had to do so much, to periodically rest.

Instead of running, the Musketeers went to a stalling offense and utilized brilliant floor play from Skaggs, Ray Gillum and Rick Coffee. Jack Skaggs, Steve’s younger brother, helped match up inside against the tall Tomcats.

Steve Skaggs was the game’s real star, scoring 23 points, collecting nine rebounds and doing most of the ballhandling. But it was Greenup County’s patience that proved decisive.

Ashland took an early six-point lead and settled back into a zone. The Musketeers — mostly Skaggs — were content to hold onto the basketball and stay within striking distance.

Greenup County went ahead for good at 42-40 on two free throws from Jack Skaggs. Then Steve Skaggs made two more for a 44-40 advantage. Salyer, who had 16 points, tried valiantly to rally the Tomcats but the Skaggs brothers kept going to the foul line where they iced the improbable victory.

It was a stunning upset. And once mighty Ashland went down, the scramble for the region title ensued.