Scott County's quest for a boys' state basketball championship is a numbers game: the No. 1 Cardinals, on a 22-game winning streak, need seven more victories to cut down the nets in Rupp Arena.
Scott County withstood a furious Henry Clay finish to beat the host Blue Devils 79-69 in the 42nd District finals Thursday night. Both teams advance to the 11th Region Tournament, which starts March 7 at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond.
The Cards will be strong favorites, considering they are 15-0 against region opponents this season. But Coach Billy Hicks said they are taking nothing for granted.
"No way, not in the 11th Region," he said. "Too many great teams to worry about."
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Dakotah Euton, a 6-foot-8 junior who has committed to Kentucky, agreed.
"On any given night you can get beat by anybody," he said. "What we want to do is play as hard as we can and compete as hard as we can. If we do that, everything will take care of itself."
Euton took care of a lot of things Thursday night. He hit nine of 11 shots from the field, six of six free throws, and finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds to earn district MVP honors.
Ge-Lawn Guyn, a 6-2 junior who played at Henry Clay as a freshman, had 21 points while being serenaded with shouts of "traitor" by Henry Clay's students.
Richie Phares, a 6-8 senior, had only two points and four rebounds in the first half, but he finished the night with 18 points and 11 boards.
Junior point guard Chad Jackson had 10 points, seven rebounds and seven steals to help Scott County beat Henry Clay for the 10th time in a row over the past four years.
Henry Clay rallied from a slow start and was within four, 34-30, in the closing seconds of the first half. But Euton swung the momentum to the Cards by hitting a long three-pointer.
Scott County stayed on a roll to start the second half, opening with a 12-0 run that gave it a 19-point lead.
The Cards led 71-50 with just more than three minutes left in the game, but Henry Clay made it interesting. The Devils closed to within eight, 73-65, forcing Hicks to reinsert Euton and Guyn.
Hicks praised the Devils' never-say-die attitude.
"It showed how courageous and tough those Henry Clay kids are," he said.
Devils Coach Daniel Brown agreed.
"There's no quit in us," he said. "I'm proud of my boys. They showed a lot of heart, and we can build on this for next week."
Prince Stewart led Henry Clay with 20 points. Brandon Nichols and Marquel Johnson had 12 apiece.
scott county 79, henry clay 69
HENRY CLAY (17-14) — P. Stewart 8-13 0-0 20, Johnson 4-8 0-0 12, Barnes 2-4 0-0 4, Kiesling 2-3 0-0 4, T. Stewart 2-4 3-4 7, Wilder 3-7 2-2 8, Kimball 1-1 0-0 2, Nichols 5-12 1-2 12. Totals 27-52 6-8 69.
SCOTT COUNTY (26-3) — Phares 8-13 2-3 18, Guyn 6-12 6-9 21, Euton 9-11 6-6 26, Jackson 3-9 4-5 10, Manning 1-3 0-2 2, Flannery 1-1 0-0 2, Ford 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-50 18-25 79.
Henry Clay 11 19 8 31—69
Scott Co. 17 20 20 22—79