A stomach bug struck the No. 1 Scott County Cardinals this week, taking sophomore standout Michael Moreno and Coach Billy Hicks down for a couple of days this week.
But if a 91-35 opening-round win over Frankfort in the 11th Region tournament at Eastern Kentucky’s Paul S. McBrayer Arena won’t cure what ails you, nothing will.
“I’m surprised he was able to get up and down the floor,” Hicks said. “He had the same thing I had. I’m glad I didn’t have to play tonight. I haven’t eaten anything in three days.
“But he had it earlier than me. And he’s in a lot better shape than I am, too. I think he’ll be at full speed Saturday.”
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Scott County (28-5) looked a little sluggish to start against a massive underdog in Frankfort (11-22). The Cardinals were 7-of-20 shooting in the first quarter, 3-of-13 from three-point range for the half and racked up two fouls on three players, including Moreno, before the break. Moreno, who leads the team in scoring with 23 points per game, sat out almost the entire second quarter.
And Scott County led by 18 at the half.
“Well, I thought at first, we were a little excited,” Hicks said. “I thought we took some bad shots. But we hustled. We played good defense and were hard to score on, but offensively we weren’t in a good flow. I thought everybody was wanting to shoot the ball and we didn’t pass it and move it.”
But Hicks never had any reason to worry, and spent very little time in the locker room at the break. For the Cardinals, Thursday’s game was also looking ahead to Saturday’s semifinal.
“We wanted the kids to get out and shoot some more,” he said. “I wanted them to get out on the floor and get to shoot and get a good feel for the floor and everything.”
The Eastern Kentucky floor runs 10 feet longer than high school courts and McBrayer Arena has a more open shooting background than most high school teams are used to. And, for Moreno, it was a chance to work back up to full strength.
“I had to get back into a rhythm out on the floor playing defense,” said the sophomore, who scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds in just 17 minutes of action. “Being physical still — missing that many days of practice, especially in postseason, is tough.”
Just as they did in last week’s 42nd District final, the Cardinals came out with a renewed energy and focus in the second half, doubling their lead in less than four minutes. Lorenzo Williams capped a mesmerizing 18-0 run with a three-point play that put Scott County up 56-20 at the 4:24 mark of the third quarter.
“Our offense started to come better and we were just playing more in sync,” said sophomore guard Bryce Long, who finished with a game-high 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including going 3-of-5 from three-point range. “Once we get going, we’re hard to stop.”
For Hicks, the game was just about maintaining Scott County’s defensive intensity and moving on.
“We were hard to score on. I thought defensively we covered down well, we blocked shots and that’s been our forte all year,” Hicks said. “Get familiar with the surroundings. Don’t get any injuries. And you hope nobody else gets sick.”
Scott County 91, Frankfort 35
Frankfort (35): Carter 10, Tillman 2, Walker 7, Cox 4, Frank 3, Davis 9.
Scott County (91): Robb 13, Watts 6, Moreno 15, Long 19, Williams 6, Fluker 9, Allen 10, C. Covington 3, G. Covington 2, Davis 2, Easley 2, Hamilton 4.
11th Region semifinals
Where: EKU’s Paul S. McBrayer Arena, Richmond
1:30 p.m.: Lexington Catholic vs. Sayre
3:15 p.m.: Scott County vs. Madison Central