VERSAILLES — Like a boxer coming out at the opening bell and unleashing a barrage of punches, Henry Clay jumped all over Scott County to start Saturday's finals of the Woodford County Invitational basketball tournament.
The quick result was a 13-0 lead, which led to the long-term goal — a 77-67 victory.
The finals provided a heavyweight matchup of 11th Region powers, too, as Henry Clay (8-1) was rated fifth statewide in the Herald-Leader pre-season coaches' poll.
Scott County (8-2), which had won eight in a row, came in rated No. 9.
"It's a good early December win. But that's what it is — a December win," Coach Daniel Brown said after his team's seventh win in a row. "We'll celebrate tonight. We'll get back in Monday and get ready to go."
The teams will meet again in 13 nights at Scott County.
Tournament MVP Jordan Green fueled Henry Clay's big first half, notching a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds. He finished with 23 and 13.
"I just try to come out and be as aggressive as I can," said Green, a 6-foot-4 junior. "I've been in a little slump lately. Just try and get to the basket early and things just came through for me tonight.
"We came together as a group and were all just on a mission."
Christen Cunningham, a 6-1 junior, took over down the stretch, hitting a buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter and scoring 13 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter.
"They was going man-to-man so that's my time to go," said Cunningham, who also had five assists and three steals. "And my teammates spaced the floor — I got good looks."
Trey Grundy added 12 points and seven rebounds for the winners, who outrebounded the Cardinals 42-29.
Guards Quin Richardson and Trent Gilbert led Scott County. Richardson totaled 23 points and nine rebounds. Gilbert hit five three-pointers and scored 21 points.
"Our kids battled hard. But we could just never get over the hump to really get it going," Scott Coach Billy Hicks said. "They blocked a lot of shots, they made a lot of plays and played harder. Tonight they were a better team than us."
Henry Clay's full-court press forced Scott County into 12 first-quarter turnovers.
"We wanted to try to create the turnovers and pick up the pressure," Brown said, "and try to take the fight to them so they didn't take it to us."
The Cardinals had only seven errors the rest of the game, finishing with two fewer than Henry Clay's 21.
"That's unusual for us," Hicks said of his team's early struggles. "But, then again, you don't see that kind of pressure, that kind of height, and our guys had to adjust to it."
Cunningham and Teddy Ware (4 points each), Green and Gerrard Newby (2 each), and Trey Grundy (1) accounted for the first 13 points.
"We always take pride in locking down the top teams," Cunningham said, "so it was a good (defensive) effort."
The Devils led by as many as 16 late in the quarter (24-8) and were up 40-31 at halftime.
Scott County came no closer than seven (42-35) in the second half, and trailed by as many as 18 (62-44) early in the fourth.
"We never laid down," Hicks said. "Several times we dug out of it but even then you've got to give them credit — they stepped up and hit a three or stepped up and hit a three-point play. They made plays."
HENRY CLAY (8-1) — Cunningham 27, Grundy 12, Green 23, Tisdale 2, Tichenor 0, Ware 8, Newby 5. Totals 30-60 14-24 77.
SCOTT CO. (8-2) — Haddix 8, Page 4, Richardson 23, Gilbert 21, Crank 6, Tribble 5, Martini 0. Totals 20-56 19-25 67.
Henry Clay 24 16 18 19—77
Scott County 11 20 10 26—67
Three-point goals — HC 3-10 (Cunningham 1-2, Green 0-2, Tisdale 0-1, Ware 2-5), SC 8-17 (Page 0-1, Richardson 2-6, Gilbert 5-8, Crank 1-2).
JEFFERSONTOWN (5-5) — Marshall 8, Williams 25, Howard 9, Hendricks 22, Minor 3, Johnson 8, Haskins 4, Baker 0. Totals 23-53 23-31 79.
WOODFORD CO. (7-4) — Boggess 25, Henderlight 4, Young 13, Honabach 9, Cole 0, Howell 9, Raglin 9, Ham 4, Hamilton 3. Totals 27-44 15-22 76.
Jeffersontown 19 10 26 24—79
Woodford County 24 16 20 16—76
Three-point goals — J 10-26 (Marshall 1-5, Williams 5-9, Howard 1-1, Hendricks 1-5, Baker 0-2, Johnson 2-4), WC 7-15 (Boggess 2-7, Young 1-3, Honabach 1-2, Howell 3-3).
All-tournament team — Christen Cunningham, Trey Grundy, Darien Tichenor (Henry Clay); Trent Gilbert, Jalen Haddix, Quin Richardson (Scott Co.); Daniel Williams, Moe Hendricks (Jeffersontown); Jalin Raglin, Eli Boggess (Woodford Co.); Eric Trigg (Dunbar); Bailey Witte (Highlands); Khmarkis Blanton (Clark Co.); Jalen Oliver (Frankfort). MVP — Jordan Green (Henry Clay).
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com