School might be out, but holiday basketball tournaments are all about hoops education.
Moore's Mustangs, rated No. 7 in the state in the pre-season, are in the middle of a Christmastime cram session.
After playing in the King of the Bluegrass at Fairdale last week and going 1-2 (losing to top-25 foes Bardstown and Central), Moore opened play in the Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic on Monday afternoon by beating Franklin County 56-49.
"We want to learn where we are as a team," Moore Coach Shedrick Jones said. "The King of the Bluegrass was great for that, and this is a great tournament, too."
Franklin County Coach Scott Chalk has the same take on holiday hoops. His Flyers were runners-up in a Bowling Green tournament last week. Now they have to battle back in the consolation bracket at Lexington Catholic.
"This is practice for March," Chalk said. "We need that tournament atmosphere. It's real easy just to win some games, but you've got to play these do-or-die games to have that tournament mentality at the end of the year."
Moore taught Franklin County a lesson about finishing a game strong.
After the Flyers' Logan Woodside converted a three-point play to tie the score at 47, the Mustangs closed with a 9-2 rush for their eighth victory in 10 games.
Jaelin Sanford's steal and three-point play put Moore ahead to stay. Daquan Boyd, William Bryant and Jermetrius Latham finished it off by hitting two free throws each.
MeKale McKay, a 6-foot-6 senior who has committed to play basketball and football at UTEP, led the winners with 18 points. Boyd had 10 points and seven rebounds. Bryant had 10 points and six boards.
Moore won because of its depth and defense.
Sanford, Latham and James Yates combined for 18 points off the bench. Moore's quickness on defense forced Franklin County into 19 turnovers that the Mustangs converted into 20 points.
"If we show up and play defense and rebound, we can play with anybody," Jones said.
McKay said the Mustangs emphasize locking down opponents "because we know the better we play defense, the easier our offense comes."
Franklin County's offensive star Monday was Garrett Hamilton, who hit 11 of 16 shots and had 24 points. Logan Woodside had 11 points. Ryan Timmons added six points and eight rebounds.
But turnovers cost the Flyers a chance at victory,
Moore "is an athletic bunch and very talented, and you can't give them extra opportunities," Chalk said.
But with a new year nearing, the coach is upbeat about his team.
"We're progressing, not going backwards," he said. "I think we have a chance to be pretty good. It's a process."
MOORE (8-2) — McKay 18, Bryant 10, Boyd 10, Sanford 8, Latham 6, Yates 4.
FRANKLIN CO. (8-4) — Hamilton 24, Woodside 11, Timmons 6, Meyer 5, Roberts 3.
Moore 9 15 11 21—56
Franklin Co. 13 12 14 10—49