It look less than a minute for blood to be spilled, and a little more time than that to clean it up.
It also took a whole half before Lexington Catholic’s top two leading scorers connected on a field goal. Scott County used a dominating defensive performance to overtake the Knights, 56-44, in the 11th Region finals Monday night at McBrayer Arena.
Cooper Robb, a junior, had a strong game for the Cardinals, ending with 17 points, four assists and seven steals. He racked up a good portion of those numbers in the first quarter —including five of the steals — as Scott County looked to leave its defensive mark on the game early.
It was helped a bit in the first quarter as Catholic’s Peter Whitman and Luke Johnson each had to exit the game to have blood cleaned up. Both quickly returned, wearing different jerseys and bandages on their faces, but Johnson never got into a first-half rhythm. LexCath’s top scorer went 0-for-3 from the field and was marked with five turnovers in the first half. He scored his first point on a free throw with 7:19 to play in the third quarter.
Johnson finished with 20 points to lead the Knights. Junior Zan Payne, Catholic’s second-leading scorer, had five points, all at the free-throw line, to go along with a game-high 10 rebounds. He and Johnson finished a combined 6-for-25 from the field.
Michael Moreno, the Cardinals’ star sophomore, matched Johnson with 20 points. He also had six rebounds, five assists and five blocks.
Moreno said Scott County had held a grudge all season against Catholic, which handed the Cardinals their only loss to a Kentucky team, 59-55, back on Dec. 13.
“We made it our mission to shut down Luke Johnson, to shut down their team as a whole, and I think we did it very well in the first half,” Moreno said.
Scott County held Lexington Catholic to 11 of 41 shooting (26.8 percent). The Cardinals didn’t fare much better at 17 of 46 (37 percent). Coach Billy Hicks credited Catholic’s “strong, tough kids” for roughing up its shooting numbers.
“We’ve been a really good defensive team now for the last month and a half,” Cards Coach Billy Hicks said. “ … But gosh, but that might be, unbelievably, the worst offensive ball game we’ve ever had. It was unreal.”
Scott County won its fifth 11th Region title since coming over from the 8th Region. The Cardinals won 10 region titles before moving. They’ll play either Pulaski County or Mercer County, who will meet for the 12th Region title on Tuesday, in the first round of the state tournament at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15.
Hicks picked up his 940th career win, the latest in a career that started at Evarts and included stops at Harlan and Corbin before reaching Georgetown. He was 41 when he took over the Cardinals’ program, at which more than 600 of his wins have been accumulated.
“I am so glad to take this team (to Rupp),” Hicks said. “ … I know we can (make a run). We’re good enough, as a lot of teams are. There’s several teams that can win it, and I think we’re in that group.”
Scott County vs. Lexington Catholic
Scott Co. (30-5) — Robb 17, Moreno 20, Watts 4, Long 7, Williams 8.
LexCath (24-9) — Payne 5, Whitman 4, Price 9, L. Johnson 20, Scott 6.