Simon Kenton’s girls staved off Scott County 78-69 in a foul-ridden contest as part of the Toyota Classic on Friday night at Scott County Middle School.
Both coaches anticipated a physical game between the top-20 teams and got one. The teams combined for 51 fouls and each had a player foul out. Scott County had three players who were one foul away from disqualification.
“We’re not playing at home,” said Simon Kenton Coach Jeffrey Stowers, whose team was ranked fifth in this week’s Cantrall Ratings. “Always expect something on the road. It’s never going to be easy.”
Pioneers star Ally Niece was reminded of that quickly in the first half. The junior picked up her second and third fouls a minute apart in the second quarter and watched the final 4:52 of the period from the bench. Battling a sickness, she played only 19 minutes but still finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
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“I told her, ‘You’re either gonna play or you’re not gonna play,’” Stowers said. “And then her stupidity came out early. … Sometimes we don’t play smart. We’ll play hard, but we don’t play smart.”
Simon Kenton bolted to a 7-0 lead before Scott County evened things at 13 apiece on an and-one layup by Peyton Riddle, who finished with 21 points. Scott County took its first lead at 16-13 on a Maaliya Owens three-pointer but relinquished it after a 7-2 Pioneers run to end the period.
Scott County wouldn’t lead again until the third quarter, 39-38, thanks to a seven-point possession capped by another Owens three-pointer. Riddle put the Cards back up, 41-40, after Simon Kenton answered, but the Pioneers ended the quarter on a 10-5 run and wouldn’t surrender the lead in the fourth quarter.
Simon Kenton center Madi Meier was pivotal down the stretch. She finished with a team-high 21 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, several resulting in putbacks.
“Madi had 14 double-doubles as a sophomore, and this year, for some reason, she started out slow,” Stowers said. “Now she’s starting to play.”
Owens finished with a game-high 25 points despite a 4-for-15 shooting night from the field. She was 14-for-17 from the free-throw line and 3-for-7 from beyond the arc.
“She’s just an incredible athlete,” Scott County Coach Steve Helton said of Owens. “Maaliya is getting better. She’s getting more comfortable in that leadership role. … If she’ll just relax and let the game come to her, she can play and take this team to another level.”
Helton lauded his team’s effort. Down 10 points with a minute to play, the No. 20 Cardinals clawed to within 72-68 with 22.5 seconds left before Simon Kenton salted the game at the line.
Senior forward Lauren Boehm has been cleared to return after spraining her knee against Madison Central on Jan. 9 but did not play. Helton wants to ease her back into the rotation without risking further injury ahead of the 42nd District tournament in February.
“Coming off an injury where it was a scare for her and all our kids, it takes a little bit to get back mentally, more than it does physically,” Helton said. “We’ve got time. The good Lord blessed us that she’s okay and able to return. Her absence has given some other kids time to step up.”
Scott County, ranked 20th in the Cantrall Ratings, will host fellow 11th Region contender Franklin County, rated sixth, at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Simon Kenton 78, Scott County 69
Simon Kenton (15-3) — Jones 9, Stamper 4, Harmeyer 1, Harney 9, Gilliam 2, Meier 21, Niece 20, Buckner 2.
Scott County (11-7) — DeFoor 6, Hudson 5, Owens 25, Riddle 21, Christian 7, Sutherland 3, Hoffman 2.