MOUNT STERLING — Forget that Montgomery County is one of three undefeated boys' basketball teams in Kentucky.
The Indians, ranked ninth in Dave Cantrall's Rating the State, are keeping a modest profile, even after dispatching archrival Clark County 54-44 on Friday night.
"We've heard a lot this week about us being undefeated, only three teams left and all that stuff, and getting patted on the back a lot about how good we are," Coach Jason Holland said after his team improved to 13-0. "We've still got to throw it up and for 32 minutes you've got to play."
Darius Jones led Montgomery with 16 points and six rebounds. Xavier Piersawl added 15 points, while Bryan Wallace had 12 points and six boards.
"It's a rival game," Wallace said. "We just came out there with a lot of fire and wanted to get them out of our gym and get this win."
Damion King, sinking 13 of 14 free throws, led Clark County (5-8) with 20 points. Luke Sharrock was the Cardinals' leading rebounder with eight, adding six points.
"I think we just played well," Holland said. "Clark County's getting better. We've talked about it with our guys. It's a rivalry game, and when you play a rivalry game things can happen. I thought both of us played really hard."
Clark County's downfall was its scoring ability. The Cardinals shot 30 percent (15-for-50), while Montgomery poured in 54.8 percent (23-for-42).
"Our preparation for this game was just so basic," Clark Coach Scott Humphrey said. "We've really struggled handling the basketball, and our spacing against the press has been poor; we've made poor decisions all year long. They turned us over 10 times against their pressure. That's very good for us.
"Rebounding, they're better than us at all five positions. They're long, they're athletic, they're physical. We've had the most physical practices you can have by hitting each other for three days. I think they outrebounded us by two. And then we talked about poise and composure, playing through the environment, playing the next play. I thought we did all three of those. They just happened to score more than us. ... We have miles to go on the offensive end. We just simply struggle to score."
Montgomery led 28-26 at halftime, and Braxton Greene's basket to open the second-half scoring tied the game.
However, back-to-back transition dunks by Deante Cisero and Jones kept the Indians in control.
Montgomery scored the last two points of the third quarter and the first six of the fourth to open a 12-point lead at 44-32. Clark County never came closer than seven points after that.
"We had to come out the second half and play better defense," Jones said. "It doesn't matter about the records. It's about how we play."
Exactly, Wallace said.
"Just take it one game at a time. I look at it like this: we're just playing basketball; any team can beat us any day."
Just not yet.
■ In a pre-game ceremony, Montgomery County retired the jerseys of Ryan Steger and girls' players Harmonie King Franklin and Whitney Lee.
Montgomery Co. 54, Clark Co. 44
CLARK CO. (5-8) — King 20, J. Israel 0, Greene 4, Blanton 8, Sharrock 6, Jones 6. Totals 15-50 13-16 44.
MONTGOMERY CO. (13-0) — Wallace 12, Piersawl 15, Hall 0, Jones 16, Cisero 8, Hodgson 3. Totals 23-42 5-11 54.
Clark County 10 16 6 12—44
Montgomery County 14 14 10 16—54
Three-point goals — CC: 1-10; MC: 3-8.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.