After a stuttering first half that saw Scott County Coach Billy Hicks bench his standout sophomore Michael Moreno, the No. 1 Cardinals punished Sayre in a ruthless display of physicality and efficiency to pull away to a 78-44 win in Friday’s 42nd District championship.
Moreno had just six points when Hicks sat him down with 4:56 left in the second period. The Cardinals benefited from 12 first-half turnovers and staked themselves to a 10 point lead, but all was not well.
“I thought we wore them down in the second half,” Hicks said. “I wished our starters had played better in the first half. You’ve got to give Sayre credit. Sayre’s defense did a good job.”
When play resumed, Moreno ignited the rout, scoring 10 points in the third period as the Cardinals pushed the lead to as many as 25 points.
“He just said play harder, bring back the intensity that I’ve been playing with all season,” Moreno said of Hicks’ halftime talk. “Just bring it as hard as I can because this is the district championship.”
Scott County’s quickness bothered the Spartans early as the Cardinals built the lead to as many as 13 points in the second period. The run was capped by a Cooper Watts three-pointer to put Scott County up 31-18 with 1:43 left till halftime. An R.J. Smith layup helped chip the lead back to 31-21 at the break.
Both teams head to the 11th Region Tournament, and Hicks believes his team can win it — but also knows it won’t be easy.
“There’s a lot of good teams in the 11th Region,” Hicks said. “We’re smart enough to know that on any given night there’s five or six teams in this region that can beat us. … You’ve got to be ready to play every night.”
It’s been six years since Scott County’s girls have won the 42nd District title, and they might have a team this year that can compete for the 11th Region crown.
Peyton Riddle, the Cardinals’ standout junior guard, scored 22 points to lead a runaway win over Henry Clay 80-52 Friday night at Bryan Station.
“This team has yet to win a district championship. They don’t know this feeling,” Scott County Coach Steve Helton said. “So, it’s very important for us to get this feeling back. … Hopefully we’ve got a few more games left in us.”
Both teams advance to the 11th Region Tournament next week, but Henry Clay (15-14) was not able to solve the Cardinals (19-9) after two losses against them in regular season play.
“Henry Clay, Eric (Sanford) and what he’s done, I think the world of him as a coach and their program,” Helton said. “They’ve had to deal with some adversity, and sometimes, adversity brings you closer. We had to play well tonight.”
Riddle scored 14 in a decisive first half, including back-to-back three-pointers highlighted by a buzzer-beater to end the second period with Scott County up 44-25.
“When your outside game’s going, it kind of opens up everything else,” Helton said. “We didn’t want to fall in love with the perimeter, but what we did want to do is really move the ball. I thought tonight we played together. I thought we rebounded the ball well.”
Four Scott County players scored in double figures. Freshman point guard Morgan DeFoor hit three three-pointers on her way to 15 points to match sophomore guard Maaliya Owens’ total. Kadee Hudson added 11 points to go along with seven rebounds.
“I was just trying to be aggressive offensively and just get everybody involved and play together,” Riddle said. “It’s a good feeling to be able to get the district back and be able to celebrate, but we still have more business to take care of.”
The Cardinals asserted themselves early with a 14-0 run that began midway through the first period. DeFoor had 10 of those points, combining with Riddle on back-to-back threes that made it 18-5 and led to a Henry Clay timeout.
The Blue Devils rallied in the second period, cutting the lead to 36-25 on junior guard Destyne Jackson’s three-pointer with two minutes left till the break, but Scott County answered with eight straight points capped by Riddle’s last-second three to extend the lead back to 19. Henry Clay would get no closer.
“We’re just trying to get better every day,” Helton said as his team prepared to accept the district trophy. “We told them coming in that we’ve played 26 practice games. Right now, they all count. “
Scott County 80, Henry Clay 52
Henry Clay (52): Gatewood 2, Jackson 10, Price 10, Long 9, Thompson 13, Williams 3, Rhodes 5.
Scott County (80): DeFoor 15, McMath 2, Hudson 11, Owens 15, Riddle 22, Holt 4, Boehm 5, Sutherland 4, Hoffman 2.