BOWLING GREEN — For a moment there, Scott County Coach Steve Helton channelled the Bee Gees.
"Staying alive," he said. "That's all we're trying to do is stay alive."
No. 9 Scott County, a better-than-25-point favorite over Belfry according to Dave Cantrall's Rating the State, needed a late surge to get past the Pirates 65-54 to stay alive at the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls Sweet Sixteen.
"It's a win no matter how ugly it is — we don't want it to be ugly, of course — but we'll take it," Cardinals guard Kristen Stainback said.
With the win, the Cards advance to Friday's quarterfinals, where they will meet No. 6 Boone County and star sophomore Sydney Moss, who had a double-double in the Rebels' morning win.
"We need to play better tomorrow," Helton said. "We are all feeling that way."
The Cardinals played well enough to win, though, closing out the game on an 11-3 run after Belfry had pulled within three points with six minutes to play on a Jackelyn Stack 10-footer.
"They attacked, attacked and attacked," Helton said of the Pirates. "Those kids laid it on the line. I'm real proud of our kids for withstanding the runs."
In the same fashion, first-year Belfry coach Rick Mounts credited the Cardinals for clamping down.
"Once we cut it to three, we couldn't get a shot off," he said. "You've got to give them all the credit. They're a really good team."
Scott County forced 28 Pirates turnovers and scored 23 points off of them. The Cardinals also won the rebounding battle 35-24.
It looked like the Cards, who won their 14th straight, were going to cruise early, grabbing a 16-4 lead midway through the first half.
Four key players, including senior Madisen Webb, picked up two fouls during the first half. Scott County (24-6) played OK without them, extending its lead to 15 points, but then Belfry started to respond.
The Pirates cut the Cards' lead to 34-26 at the half.
Scott County picked up the intensity defensively in the third quarter, forcing eight turnovers and extending its lead back to as many as 14 points with 1:09 left in the quarter.
"At times tonight, we played Scott County basketball, and at times we needed to improve," Helton said.
Stainback paced the Cardinals with 22 points and four rebounds. Webb, who had 12 points and three steals for the Cardinals, said there's much work to be done.
"We played hard in spurts," she said. "But luckily we still came out on top tonight."
Belfry, which was just 6-21 a season ago before Mounts took over, turned some heads at the state tournament.
Jillnell Blevins led all scorers with 24 points. Meghan Staten added 12 points and seven rebounds. Stack had 10 points.
The Pirates (23-8) definitely impressed their coach.
"I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of this team," Mounts said. "Nobody gave us much of a chance, but we battled. You watch upsets all the time. Anything can happen."