The traditional 12 days of Christmas, which come with annoying French hens and turtle doves, may appeal to some people, but the Henry Clay boys' basketball team prefers the past 11 days of holiday hoops.
Starting with a rousing come-from-behind victory over defending state champ Trinity on Dec. 15, the Blue Devils have been on an impressive tear, including a sweep through the Woodford County Invitational that was capped by a win over rival Scott County in the finals.
Henry Clay, ranked No. 5 in the state in the Herald-Leader's pre-season poll, continued its hot streak the day after Christmas by whipping No. 25 Butler 75-60 in the Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.
"We all know we have a target on our back now, so we have to come out and play hard every game. No letdowns," Henry Clay's Jordan Green said after getting 21 points, six rebounds and three assists against Butler.
The 6-foot-4 junior got plenty of support from 6-5 senior Darien Tichenor (17 points, eight rebounds), junior point guard Christen Cunningham (16 points, four assists), junior Teddy Ware (10 points) and 6-6 junior Trey Grundy (14 rebounds, four points).
Henry Clay Coach Daniel Brown said his young but experienced players are showing "maturity" and "accountability" by being ready to play every night.
"They're coming in and working hard, and they're seeing the benefits of that," Brown said.
"They're trying to take care of business by playing hard and playing together."
Brown also likes the way his players are listening. Going into the Butler game, for example, Brown wanted his team to exploit its size advantage by attacking the rim and crashing the boards.
Henry Clay did both, getting 48 points in the paint and out-rebounding Butler 46-27.
"We did what we wanted to do," Brown said. "It's always good when your team listens to the scouting report and executes the game plan."
Henry Clay took control midway through the first half. Trailing 12-10, it scored 11 straight points — punctuated by a Tichenor dunk — to go up 21-12.
The long and athletic Devils stretched their lead to 44-28 by halftime, and they continued to dominate in the second half.
Butler, which had a hard time scoring inside, was led by Demetrius McReynolds' 16 points. William Johnson had 14 points and six rebounds.
Henry Clay advances to Friday's quarterfinals. It will play the winner of Thursday's game between Johnson Central and John Hardin.
Henry Clay 75, Butler 60
BUTLER (7-4) — McReynolds 16, Bell 11, Harbin 2, Farrell 2, Johnson 14, Whetstone 7, Malone 5, Bradley 1, Blanks 2.
HENRY CLAY (9-1) — Grundy 4, Green 21, Ware 10, Cunningham 16, Tichenor 17, Tisdale 3, Newby 4.
Butler 14 14 12 20—60
Henry Clay 21 23 17 14—75
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com