The Ashland Bluejays withstood a second half rally by the Minneola Wildcats to record a 49-43 victory in a boys quarterfinal matchup of the Southern Plains-Iroquois Activities Association contest at United Wireless Arena.
The Bluejays made the plays at the end when it counted in the final three minutes of regulation to advance to Friday's semifinal matchup against South Gray. It was the second win for the Bluejays over the Wildcats in five days and was the third time this season the two Clark County rivals battled each other on the court.
"We were real prepared for the game because we knew this was one we wanted; and we knew they wanted it, too," said Ashland's Grant Meininger. "We wanted to go out and see who would be the winner."
Meiniger scored 23 points to lead the Bluejays (7-5), while Corey McMann added 15 (including seven in the final quarter) and Kole Konrade 10 in the victory.
Matt McClaren scored 14 of his 18 points after intermission to lead the Wildcats (6-5) and Brandy Shumate had 12 points in the loss.
The Bluejays scored 10 of the first 13 points of the game and led by six after the opening stanza and increased their lead to nine before Minneola made an 8-2 run to cut the margin down to four late. Ashland closed out the half with two baskets and led 25-16 at intermission with Meininger scoring 12 of those points.
Ashland's lead reached double digits early in the third quarter before the Wildcats got back in the game with a 12-point run to earn their first lead of the game at 32-29 just before the end of the stanza and led by one with one period remaining. McClaren scored seven points in the quarter.
The two teams traded the lead early in the fourth quarter before the Bluejays used a five-point run to lead 43-38 with three minutes left in regulation. Minneola scored three points and had a chance to tie the game, but Ashland's Jorge Saravia stole the ball with 34.7 seconds left on the clock.
Meininger hit two free throws to make it a two-possession lead for Ashland, but Matt McClellan made a running lay-up with 17.7 left. The Bluejays missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Konrade knocked the ball away from McClaren to Meininger. Meininger hit both free throws and Corey McCain sealed the deal with two more from the line.
"Our coaches just told us to settle down and play our offense; and to make our free throws if we get to the line," Meininger said.
ASHLAND (49) – Kole Konrade 10, Grant Meininger 22, Corey McCann 15, Alex Ornelas 2. Totals 18 10-13 49.
MINNEOLA (43) – Brandy Shumate 12, Matt McClaren 18, Sam Stephens 3, Gary Stewart 4, Jason Britt 4, Erik Esplund 2. Totals 16 7-10 43.