High School Basketball

Kentucky’s preseason No. 1 looking to finish season with only one loss

The Scott County starters didn't play any in the second half against Madison Southern, after taking an 80-22 lead into halftime, during the first round of the 11th Region tournament, Thursday night, March 1, 2018, at EKU's McBrayer Arena in Richmond.
The Scott County starters didn't play any in the second half against Madison Southern, after taking an 80-22 lead into halftime, during the first round of the 11th Region tournament, Thursday night, March 1, 2018, at EKU's McBrayer Arena in Richmond.

The 101st Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen basketball state tournament tips Wednesday at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

Below is a team profile for the Scott County Cardinals, who will meet Trinity in the first round at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

SCOTT COUNTY

Region: 11th

Record: 34-1

Enrollment: 2,514 (1,235 boys)

Coach's résumé

Billy Hicks has won 975 games over his career, the most by any coach in KHSAA history and 17th all-time nationally. He’s fourth in wins among active head coaches in the U.S. He coached at Evarts, Harlan and Corbin before coming to Scott County beginning in the 1994-95 season.

Probable starters

2) Bryce Long, 6-1, Jr., 9.4 ppg

10) Cooper Robb, 6-2, Sr., 13.9 ppg

11) Diablo Stewart, 5-9, Jr., 12.1 ppg

14) Glenn Covington, 6-0, Jr., 6.0 ppg

24) Michael Moreno, 6-6, Jr., 20.5 ppg

How they got here

The Cardinals won the 11th Region tournament for the second straight season, upending Lexington Christian Academy, 46-44, in the finals. Before that game — at the end of which LCA had a game-winning three-pointer bounce off the rim — Scott County had won eight straight games by double digits and an average of 35.5 points. Only six of its wins this season were by less than 10 points, one of them a 71-62 decision over Bishop Gorman, a Las Vegas powerhouse that’s ranked 10th in the nation by MaxPreps.com.

Scott County was ranked No. 1 in the preseason and hasn’t lost to a team from Kentucky this season. LCA almost got it, though, after three of the Cardinals’ five starters combined for one field goal.

“That was weird,” Hicks said. “Usually you lose games like that. I guess, looking on the positive side, we were able to win when three starters went 1-for-20. ... I guess we made up for it on the defensive side of the floor.”

Player to watch

Moreno has a shot at joining an exclusive club by the time he’s a senior. Entering this season only five players in state history had amassed 3,000 points and 1,100 rebounds (the minimum totals for the KHSAA record book); Moreno’s got 2,002 points and 1,086 rebounds coming into his second Sweet Sixteen. He’s got offers from the University of Iowa, Bradley University and Eastern Kentucky University.

Ohio State, Tennessee and Western Kentucky also have been involved in his recruitment.

“Kentucky isn’t but everybody else is. He’s getting recruited by a lot of people but I guess it don’t count in Kentucky unless Kentucky recruits ya I guess,” Hicks said with a laugh.

Moreno has been one of Scott County’s most mature players since he was a freshman, and his example extends beyond the court.

“He’s a really smart, intelligent, well-mannered kid. He’s a great kid in the classroom and a great teammate. Everybody likes Michael.”

One that got away

Scott County’s only loss this season was to Cincinnati Moeller in its first game of the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the same tournament in which it defeated Bishop Gorman and Lanett, an Alabama power.

Moeller’s got a strong basketball team, but unsual circumstances didn’t help the Cardinals’ chances in what ended as a 60-41 loss on Dec. 26. About an hour before the game’s scheduled tip time Scott County was stranded at a nearby Chili’s.

“We went to eat our pre-game meal and our bus driver abandoned us,” Hicks said. “We had a seven o’clock game and our charter bus didn’t get back to pick us up until after six o’clock. We had to get back into Myrtle Beach, to the hotel, get our uniforms, get to the gym and then rush out and play.

“They were too good a team. You gotta get ready to play a team like that.”

It didn’t help matters that Moeller had lost to Covington Catholic, another Kentucky power, two weeks prior.

“Moeller was laid back and waiting,” Hicks said. “They’d lost to CovCath and they were chomping at the bit to get ahold of a Kentucky team.”

Sweet history

Scott County is celebrating its own Sweet Sixteen: it’s trip No. 16 to the boys’ state tournament for the Cardinals and their 11th under Hicks. Everett “Mutt” Varney and Billy Ray Reynolds each led the Cardinals to two Sweet Sixteens.

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps

Chris Ware | Herald-Leader staff
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