MAYSVILLE — No way was Clark County, the heavy favorite in Monday's boys' 10th Region championship basketball game, about to overlook Pendleton County.
Not after what happened in last year's finals, on the same Mason County floor.
Clark County held a six-point lead with less than four minutes left, but lost by two points to Mason County.
Monday, Clark County scored the first four points of the game, pushed the lead to double digits at 13-3 and never let up en route to a 62-40 rout of Pendleton County in front of a crowd of about 4,000.
"We played like a team that's been around forever early on," Coach Scott Humphrey said. "They were aching and dying to get back here from the way our season ended last year.
"When our season ended last year, their approach from then until now has been remarkable. They've been so businesslike. They've approached every practice and every game, regardless of who's on our schedule, with this in mind."
Robbie Stenzel led the Cardinals with 15 points and six rebounds. Jaylen Daniel added 14 points.
"We went out and played our hearts out," Daniel said. "That's what we had to do to win this game."
Corey Rogers had 10 points and seven rebounds. Vinny Zollo had five points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Said Zollo, a 6-foot-9 Western Kentucky signee: "I can't tell you, leaving this building last year, how much fire that gave us. We really took it to the next level in training all year. ... You've got to be mentally strong to get out of here with a win. We came in here and just worked so hard and came together as a team. That was the difference — we're a group of seniors that believes in each other and believes in our team."
Bopper Stenzel — the junior who is the lone non-senior in Clark's starting lineup — had seven points, four rebounds and five assists.
Travis Purvis, a senior, came off the bench to collect 10 points and four rebounds.
"Tremendous senior leadership," Humphrey said. "They were ready to explode, and they did tonight in the first quarter."
The Cardinals (29-5) will be making their 22nd trip to the State Tournament, their first since 2007. They will go in having won eight games in a row and 20 of 21.
Pendleton (15-18) had a six-game winning streak snapped.
Robbie Stenzel, a 6-4 Eastern Kentucky signee, scored 11 of the Cardinals' first 13 points. Included were a pair of three-pointers, one that was part of a four-point play as he was fouled.
"Losing up here the last three years, I wanted to win more than any game I've ever played in," he said. "I came out on fire, with a lot of confidence. It felt good."
Clark led 27-10 after one quarter, 37-20 at halftime.
"Absolutely, we were worried about the first quarter, and they came out and stung us," Pendleton Coach Chad Simms said. "We were a little nervous, you could tell."
Aside from last year's finish, Robbie Stenzel knew not to overlook the Wildcats.
"Not just any team can come up here and beat Montgomery County and beat Mason County on their home floor," Stenzel said. "So you know they've got a good coaching staff. They're young and they're a really good team."
CLARK CO. (29-5) — Daniel 14, B.Stenzel 7, Co.Rogers 10, Zollo 5, R.Stenzel 15, Purvis 10, Skinner 1. Totals 22-42 11-19 62.
PENDLETON CO. (15-18) — Walsh 5, Monroe 10, Woods 7, Bonar 4, Antrobus 10, Harper 2, Rering 2. Totals 15-50 6-8 40.
Clark County 27 10 14 11—62
Pendleton County 10 10 6 14—40