In 1977 Ashland would take the 16th Regional Tournament with ease. A 94-36 win over Rowan County, a 62-50 victory over Lewis County and a 50-42 championship win over Fairview sent the Tomcats to another Sweet 16.
The Tomcats listed two players as All Staters that season. We have written about both. Jeff Kovach was a 6ft. 7 inch 1st Team All State player that season Jim Harkins, a transfer from Ashland Holy Family a couple of years earlier, was listed as on the All State 2nd Team at 6ft. 4in.. Mark Swift was listed as an All State Honorable Mention selection that season.
In the first round game of the Sweet 16 Ashland drew Laurel County. Ashland came into that game at 28-1. Few people were in the stands to see Ashland take a 58-52 victory due to schools making up missed snow days. Ticket sales were normal but most schools were in makeup sessions. Attendance was less than half the capacity.
In that opener for Ashland, Laurel County had an early drought in scoring in the first half of nearly seven minutes, and then went nearly four minutes into the second half without scoring. It wasn’t all bad shooting. Ashland’s defense played a large part in that drought. Hitting 25 of 42 shots from the floor for the Tomcats to 21 for 53 for Laurel County plus a 39-22 board advantage for Ashland led to Laurel County’s demise. The Tomcats center, Kovach, hit 16 points and pulled in 17 rebounds for the winners.
Next up came Shelby County with All State junior Norris Beckley along with sophomore Charles Hurt and other really good players. Ashland held a 13 point lead in that game with 4:41 left. Shelby County once again went to a press, something that had failed them earlier. It brought them back to 44-40 with 32 seconds left but that wasn’t to be for Shelby County and the Tomcats took their 30th win with a 44-42 victory. Harkins had 17 points and seven rebounds while his All State teammate Kovach hauled in 13 rebounds. Ashland played but six players while nine saw action for Shelby County.
To the semifinal round on Saturday morning at Freedom Hall went the Tomcats to face a tough Valley team out of the 6th Region. Much as it was against Shelby County’s press early, Ashland had little trouble with Valley’s full court pressure. That is until late in the game, much like the Shelby County quarterfinal.
At halftime it was a 22-22 deadlock but Valley got their game together at halftime and came out to a 10-1 start of the third quarter. Ashland could not catch up and fell . Ashland hit but 38% from the floor while Valley shot 59%. Kovach led Ashland with 10 points and nine rebounds while Harkins had 16 points and 16 rebounds. That ended the high school careers of two of the Tomcats’ finest. Both were named to the All Tournament Team. Coach Paul Patterson guided his Tomcats to a great 30-2 season.
Harkins would play a season at Miami of Ohio before transferring to EKU where he did not play basketball but was an excellent enough left handed pitcher that he was drafted by the padres and played a few seasons in their organization.
Kovach would further his career at Tulsa.