When Henry Clay ran out to a big lead in the first half, there was no doubt what Scott County had to do.
There was no star to go to, so the No. 5 Cardinals had to rely on good, old-fashioned hustle.
"Pressure and the hustle," Coach Billy Hicks said. "Pressure and hustle."
Those two things helped Scott County win its third straight 42nd District championship with a 79-66 victory over the No. 22 Devils on Friday night at Bryan Station.
In the first few minutes, it looked like the Cardinals might run away as they grabbed an 8-1 lead on Tanner Shotwell's three-pointer, but the Devils weren't done, scoring 15 consecutive points to surge ahead.
Things kept going Henry Clay's way and it went up by 15 points, 30-15, on Nate Parker's fast-break basket.
The Scott County players could have hung their heads and advanced to next week's 11th Region Tournament despite the loss, but they had hardware to collect.
"We had to fight through it," Isiah Ivey said of the early deficit.
Ivey was a big help. He led the Cardinals with 27 points. Quinn Richardson and Josh Harris added 11 points apiece as Scott County won its third straight and its seventh in its past eight games.
The Cardinals clearly didn't want to go into the half and face Hicks with that kind of deficit.
They turned on the burners for the final four minutes of the half, using a 16-5 rally to get within three points, 34-31.
"We just had to stay after them and hope we could wear them down some and get some turnovers off them," Hicks said.
He told his team as much at the break.
In the second half the Cardinals raised their pressure and snatched the lead for good as Ivey's 18-footer with 1:30 to go in the third quarter capped a 6-0 run.
An even more decisive 11-3 spurt in the fourth quarter ultimately put enough distance between the two rivals.
The Cardinals' Tamron Manning said the Devils seemed tired toward the end.
"We knew we had some more depth than they did and that really helped us in the end," said Manning, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Cardinals (24-6) scored 19 points off 19 Henry Clay miscues and held the Devils to 18 shots in the second half (11 fewer than their first-half total).
Even though the Cards outrebounded the Devils by just one, 37-36, Henry Clay Coach Daniel Brown thought it was hustle plays like rebounding that changed things in the second half.
Henry Clay (20-10) was without one of its star guards in Wes Kimball, who was out sick, Brown said. The coach said he wasn't sure if Kimball would be ready to go for next week's region tournament at Eastern Kentucky University.
HENRY CLAY (20-10) — Stewart 2-7 1-2 5, Prewitt 4-11 9-15 17, Nichols 2-8 4-6 10, Green 1-5 5-8 7, Grundy 4-7 4-4 12, Parker 3-5 1-1 7, Tichenor 2-3 0-0 4, Patton 0-0 2-2 2, Blackburn 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 19-47 26-38 66.
scott co. (23-5) — Cunningham 0-3 0-0 0, Barber 1-1 2-2 4, Reliford 0-3 4-6 4, Richardson 3-10 4-4 11, Ivey 9-16 7-7 27, Manning 3-9 4-6 10, Harris 4-7 3-4 11, Shotwell 2-5 2-2 7, Gilbert 2-6 0-0 5, Portwood 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-62 26-31 79.
Henry Clay 17 17 15 17—66
Scott Co. 9 22 21 27—79