It didn’t take long for Clark County to hit the lowest point of its 2017-18 season.
Kennedy Igo, the Cardinals’ star sophomore point guard, went down with an ankle injury in the preseason. Clark County, the defending 10th Region champ and a preseason favorite for the state title, traveled to Sacred Heart and took a beating — 75-39 — on Nov. 29.
“The day before Sacred Heart we had to adjust on the fly,” Clark County Coach Robbie Graham said. “ ... We got blitzed and I think that really hurt our pride and our feelings a little bit to go out and get blitzed like that right off the bat. I think we had to dial it back a little bit and when Kennedy got back, we got healthy and started playing good.”
The state tournament isn’t played in November, so Clark County’s season will end one way or another in the month of March. It got out of the 10th Region — the Cardinals in the semifinals upset Campbell County, a team that beat it by 26 three games after the embarassment at Sacred Heart — and kept up its winning ways with a 70-56 victory over Harlan County in the first round of the 57th St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena on Wednesday.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Igo led the way with 22 points and six assists. She was 7-for-12 from the floor and perfect from behind the three-point arc (4-for-4) and the free-throw line (4-for-4). Shamaya Behanan had 21 points and eight rebounds; she was 6-for-8 from the field and 9-for-9 from the charity stripe.
Clark County will meet Elizabethtown in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Harlan County bolted out to a six-point lead and had the advantage for most of the first quarter. A tip-in by Maleaha Bell gave the Cardinals their first lead, 16-15, with 1:04 left in the period; they never surrendered it.
Black Bears star Blair Green, a Miss Basketball finalist who’s signed with the University of Kentucky, finished with 19 points, five assists and four rebounds. It was the the first girls’ Sweet Sixteen appearance in Harlan County’s history.
Green, a six-foot forward who shoots 60 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three-point range, presented a unique defensive challenge to the Cardinals.
“High school players are usually really-good inside players or really-good outside players,” Graham said. “With her being both, we just wanted to do everything we could to make everything tough. ... It’s tough. She’s a tremendous player.”
Behanan and Igo both scored double their averages in the victory. Igo was blunt in her assessment as to why she felt comfortable shooting the ball on the big stage.
“It’s not really the gym,” Igo said. “I just know we’ve come here to take care of business and I come to play.”