FRANKFORT — Scott County shooting star Trent Gilbert put Lexington Catholic behind the eight ball with the three-ball in the opening minutes of their 11th Region showdown Thursday night.
Gilbert then finished the Knights off with the free-ball in the closing minutes as No. 4 Scott County went on to pocket a 62-49 victory in the Frankfort Convention Center.
Gilbert wound up scoring 30 points, including 15 of 16 free throws. He also led his team with eight rebounds.
The Cardinals, notching their 30th win of the season, will play defending state champion Madison Central in Saturday night's semifinals.
Gilbert, a 6-foot-1 senior, flashed his Mr. Basketball finalist credentials by scoring Scott County's first 15 points, including three three-pointers. The Cards went on to build a 26-10 lead.
"That was huge, Trent coming out and getting hot right off the bat," Coach Billy Hicks said. "We were able to get control of the game."
Gilbert said after his first shot went in, "I was like, the rest of them can go. I just felt it right off tonight."
After pumping in 18 points in the first 10 minutes, Gilbert drew a double-team from Lexington Catholic. He didn't try to force anything, and instead let his teammates pick up the offensive slack.
Hicks said it was obvious what the Cards had to do. "If two's on me, somebody's free," he said, referring to Gilbert getting double-teamed.
"I thought Teddy (Ware) hit some big shots, and Tony (Martini) got some big baskets for us in the third quarter."
Ware had 17 points and 7-1 sophomore Raekwon Long had eight points, four rebounds and three blocks. Martini added five points, six rebounds and five assists.
"A lot of kids made a lot of plays for us," Hicks said.
Scott County blistered Lexington Catholic 81-60 in mid-February, but the Knights battled back valiantly in the rematch.
Led by juniors Tanner Johnson (16 points) and Michael Talbott (12 points), and 6-7 senior Robert Dence (12 points, nine rebounds), the Knights kept chipping away until they trimmed the deficit to 55-49 with three minutes left after Johnson hit two technical free throws.
Lexington Catholic retained possession and had a chance to get even closer, but its offense broke down and didn't score again.
Gilbert, a 91 percent foul shooter, put the game away by hitting seven of eight free throws in the last 2:30.
Hicks didn't like playing spread-the-floor, grind-it-out basketball down the stretch, "but when you get in a tournament you're just trying to win and move on."
Lexington Catholic was without starting junior guard Jarod Griffin, who broke his wrist in the district finals last week.
"It's tough when you lose one-fifth of your offense and defense," Coach Brandon Salsman said.
"The odds were stacked against us, but I was proud of the way we fought to the end. Scott County is a great team with great players. That's why we knew we had to battle all night."
SCOTT COUNTY 62, LEXINGTON CATHOLIC 49
SCOTT COUNTY (30-3) — Gilbert 30, Ware 17, Long 8, Martini 5, Murray 2.
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC (19-12) — Johnson 16, Talbott 12, Dence 12, Ryan 4, Morris 3, Ogbugu 2.
Scott County 18 8 15 21—62
Lexington Catholic 8 8 16 17—49