Sweet Sixteen: Scott County withstands feisty Fleming County 77-66 in opener

mfields@herald-leader.comMarch 19, 2014 

Scott County's Trent Gilbert (12) drove to the basket late in the fourth quarter against Fleming County in the first round of the Boys' Sweet Sixteen. Gilbert scored 30 points with seven rebounds and five assists Wednesday night. Scott County played Fleming County in a first round game of the 2014 KHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament, Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2014 at Rupp Arena in Lexington. Photo by Jonathan Palmer

Scott County Coach Billy Hicks and his wife Betsy had their car totaled when another driver slammed into them on their way home from Tuesday night's Mr. Basketball banquet in Lexington.

Hicks refused to go to the emergency room because he was afraid doctors might find something wrong with him and keep him from coaching in the state tournament Wednesday night.

As it turned out, Hicks, with a sore neck and a bruised forehead, didn't have a joy ride against Fleming County in the opening round of the 97th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen.

Scott County, led by senior guard Trent Gilbert, pulled out a hard-earned 77-66 victory in Rupp Arena.

"I knew it was going to be a tough basketball game," Hicks said. "They had basically the same team that was here last year, and they had a little something to prove."

Panthers Coach Mark Starns confirmed that, saying Internet chatter before the tournament cast his team as a "sacrificial lamb" against the 11th Region power.

"A lot of people didn't give us a shot at winning this game," he said. "But we fought and battled. I think Scott County realized they were in a ball game tonight."

Gilbert, a Mr. Basketball finalist, led the winners with 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Raekwon Long, a 7-foot-1 sophomore, gave the Cards a huge presence inside with 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots.

Scott County's bench contributed 22 points. Dylan Portwood had nine of those and Hines Jones had eight.

Fleming County did a good job keeping Gilbert in check early by running two defenders at him. He had nine points as the Cards led 38-33 at halftime.

"I kind of forced my first few shots. I didn't feel smooth," Gilbert said.

Gilbert got loose in the third quarter, however, and had 11 points to spark Scott County to a 12-point lead.

Long also needed time to settle in, although he was a factor on defense from the opening tip.

"I was a little nervous at first. I had to let it come to me and not force it," he said.

The Cards were up by 13 early in the fourth quarter, but Fleming County scrapped back by attacking the rim and getting to the foul line.

"If you settle for jump shots against Scott County, you'll be in a world of trouble," Starns said. "So we were being aggressive."

The Panthers cut the deficit to 64-57 with two minutes left, and it was 69-63 inside the final minute.

Gilbert and Matt Murray kept Scott County out of upset territory, though, by hitting their free throws.

Fleming County senior point guard Darion Burns, who missed most of the regular season recovering from knee surgery, was tough off the dribble in the first half and had 10 points.

"He was a problem," Hicks said. "But we were finally able to contain him in the second half."

Troy Steward, a 6-4 senior, was the focus of Scott County's defense. The Cards hounded him into 3-for-16 shooting, but Steward cashed 12 of 13 free throws and finished with 20 points and seven rebounds.

Senior Brady Saunders muscled his way to 14 points, and 6-4 junior Wilder Williams had seven points and nine rebounds.

Fleming County hit 30 of 39 free throws compared to Scott County's 13 of 23.

Hicks said it was "beyond frustration" in the first half when Scott County was whistled for 12 fouls and Fleming County only three.

But his Cards survived, and he added to his record total of Sweet Sixteen victories. He now has 24.

(Hicks' wife Betsy did go to the emergency room. Her minor injuries included a sore back.)

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.

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