Scott County recovered from an anemic offensive performance in the first half to crush Pulaski County, 83-54, in the first round of the 100th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen Wednesday night at Rupp Arena.
Box score: Scott County 83, Pulaski County 54
The Cardinals shot 38.7 percent in the opening half but went 23 of 35 after the break to knock out the Maroons, who never got untracked against the Cards. Scott County put a running clock into effect with a little more than three minutes to play and finished with 57 points in the second half, the seventh-highest total for any half in a state-tournament game.
Scott County’s slow offensive start called back to its performance against Lexington Catholic in the 11th Region finals, in which it scored 25 first-half points and finished with a 56-44 win.
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Cooper Robb led Scott County with 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting. He had seven rebounds and six assists for the Cardinals, who will meet No. 2 Bowling Green in the quarterfinals at noon Friday.
“They’re a nightmare for any defensive team,” Scott County Coach Billy Hicks said when prompted about the forthcoming matchup. “We hang our hat on defense but they’ve got a lot of weapons and a lot of quickness. ... We’ve gotta put our heads together and we’ll have to bring our A game cause they’re a really, really good basketball team.”
Michael Moreno, a star sophomore for the Cardinals, ended with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Bryce Long and Cooper Watts also finished in double-figure scoring for Scott County, ending with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Robb was 5-for-7 with 10 points at the half for Scott County; the rest of its seven players who saw the court combined to go 7-for-24 to start things off.
“We weren’t getting our shots inside so I was just trying to work the ball around but it wasn’t really happening, so I was just trying to get the open shots and I was hitting ’em so I just kept on taking ’em,” Robb said of keeping the Cards afloat in the beginning.
There was a concerted effort to get other guys going in the third quarter. Moreno scored 11 of his 15 out of the locker room. He attributed some of the Cardinals’ offensive woes to nerves.
“I think jitters got us in the first half, you know rushing through everything” Moreno said. “It’s Rupp Arena. What Kentucky kid doesn’t want to play in Rupp Arena and now we’re getting to do it.”
Pulaski County Steven Fitzgerald, a junior who’s receiving Division I interest, had 19 points on 5-for-11 shooting. Watts was Fitzgerald’s primary defender most of the night, and Hicks was pleased with how the senior big man performed against the Maroons’ star.
“We held him to 11 shots and he usually gets about 20-some shots a game, so we were able to limit Fitzgerald from getting his normal shots,” Hicks said. “If he gets those normal shots, he’s gonna put up 30 or 40 on us. So I thought Cooper did a really good job with his quickness and his length of keeping Fitzgerald contained to some degree.”
It was Pulaski County’s first trip to the state tournament since 1992. The Maroons, ranked in the top 20 for most of the year, will graduate five seniors, among them second- and third-leading scorers Landon Powell and Treyvon Sylvester.
“We had a great year,” Sylvester said. “These guys are gonna do a lot of great things after this year, and Steven’s gonna have a great next year. And I’m looking forward to seeing Pulaski next year, too.”