Over the past two years, the Ashland and Fowler boys have been two of the more dominant teams in small school basketball.
The Bluejays were undefeated state champs two years ago, while the Goldbugs nearly accomplished that same feat last year falling in the state championship to Axtell. Because of that skill on the court, the two have developed quite the rivalry.
However, over that time frame the rivalry has been a bit one sided. Prior to Tuesday night’s showdown under the dome in Fowler, the Goldbugs had won the last four meetings, including a 49-47 overtime victory over the Jays in December's Black & Gold Classic.
The night was different but the result ended up being the same as Ashland folded under the Fowler pressure late, falling by a final score of 49-44, extending the Goldbugs reign over the Bluejays to five games.
"It's exciting. I mean we have to get by this team in sub-state to get to state so to come out on top twice so far this year is very encouraging for us, said Goldbugs senior forward, Ty Clark."
Fowler started the game well, running out to an early 6-0 lead after a Luke Huelskamp three pointer from the wing.
But, Ashland slowly began to chip away at that lead and a Corey McCann triple had the Bluejays up by one at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams took turns trading leads in the second until under two minutes to play, when Fowler's Taylin Bird drove to the cup for a lay-up to give the Bugs a 23-20 lead heading to the locker room.
Coming out of the break, Fowler ramped up its pressure on the Ashland's ball handlers, forcing turnovers leading to easy buckets at the other end.
Bird said, "Defense was the key to this game. Without our defense we wouldn't have been able to pull this one out."
The Goldbugs held a steady lead throughout, but by no more than five points until Bird, who had a team high 18 points, connected on a three from the top of the key to put Fowler up 38-32 with about six minutes left.
While that lead doesn't seem like much, in a battle between two teams who know each other so well it was enough to hold on.
Even though Ashland's Grant Meininger did his best to keep the Jays close down the stretch, making tough shots out of double teams and getting to the line at will. He finished with a game high 24 points. Unfortunately for the Bluejays, he was the only player on the team to reach double figures on the night.
Bird led the Goldbugs with 18 points, while Ty Clark also hit double digits with 13.
The #3 Fowler boys remain undefeated on the year at 7-0. The loss sets #6 Ashland back to 6-3.
In the girls game, #10 Ashland had all it could handle in a 38-27 come from behind win against a feisty Lady Bugs team they'd beaten by 19 points earlier this year.
The first half was not one to behold for either side as the teams were deadlocked at 6-6 after one quarter and Fowler taking a slight 16-12 advantage at the intermission.
Ashland's go to scorer, Canaan Endicott was held in check in the first half, only managing three points. But, she nailed a three pointer to kick start a 10-0 Ashland run to begin the second half as the Lady Jays escaped.
Endicott's 19 second half points gave her a game high 22 on the night. Ashten Clark led the Fowler attack with 13.
The Lady Bluejays improve to 7-2 on the year, while Fowler drops to .500 at 4-4.