WINCHESTER — After winning its first four games in relatively easy fashion, the fifth-ranked Clark County Cardinals knew they would have to man-up against Male on Saturday night.
And they did.
Thanks to strong rebounding and solid defense, Clark County beat the No. 25 Bulldogs 72-63. It was a case of the Cardinals' strength and size besting Male's speed and quickness.
Junior guard Robbie Stenzel's 23 points led the winners, but it was the work inside by two big guys that made the difference.
Vinny Zollo, a 6-foot-8 junior, had 20 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots. Corey Rogers, a 6-5 junior, had 12 rebounds to go with six points.
"I'm happy with the win, but I'm more happy with how we played because I know Male played a very good game," Clark County Coach Scott Humphrey said.
Zollo's performance had Humphrey smiling.
"Vinny is playing extremely physical, which is a world of difference from where he was this time last year when he just wanted to hang on the perimeter," Humphrey said.
"He's really embraced his physical role inside."
Rogers, a wide-body, has always loved contact and playing hard-nosed defense.
Male, which has to be the best 0-3 team in Kentucky, led for much of the first half thanks to sharp shooting.
"Male was shooting lights out, and I didn't have a bit of trouble with our defense," Humphrey said.
The second half was a different story.
The Bulldogs couldn't find the basket. They made only seven of 39 shots (18 percent). Kevin Glenn, who hit four threes and had 15 points in the first half, missed 11 of 12 shots in the second half.
Still, Male stayed in it for a while.
"I told our kids, the good thing was we were still in the game even though we couldn't make a shot," Coach Tom Crews said. "But we took care of the ball and battled to get second shots."
Male trailed only 48-46 after three quarters, but Clark County pulled out to a 60-48 lead with four minutes left in the game. The Cards were able to hold on from there.
Stenzel, who has been a key player for Clark County since he was an eighth-grader, had nine points in the fourth quarter to help seal it.
"It seems like Robbie's been here for 12 years, so sometimes he goes unappreciated because he's just so consistent," Humphrey said.
Stenzel confessed that Clark County was a little lax in its victory over Montgomery County as it peeked ahead to Male.
"We were a little concerned about saving our legs," he said. "But we came out and played harder tonight. This was a good test for us."
Humphrey also said his players ratcheted up their game, especially on the boards.
"When you rebound with that type of effort for 32 minutes, it eventually takes its toll," he said.
Zollo said that at first, he "didn't realize just how quick Male was," but once he adjusted, he and his teammates "found a way to win.
"This was a tough, tough victory for us."
MALE (0-3) — Glenn 21, Hayes 17, Horne 11, Pillischafske 7, Way 3, Duncan 4.
CLARK COUNTY (5-0) — Stenzel 23, Zollo 20, Purvis 4, Rogers 6, Daniel 14, Rogers 5.
Male 22 15 9 17—63
Clark County 20 17 11 24—72