A rematch from last year’s Sweet Sixteen presumably lost some of its “oomph” with both teams’ best player sidelined due to injury, but the game played during South Laurel High School’s Raymond Reed Classic was no less entertaining for the hundreds in attendance on Saturday.
Scott County, as it did in last year’s first round, prevailed over Trinity, 56-53, in a battle between the top-ranked teams in the Cantrall Ratings. The No. 1 Cardinals won without their top player – Mr. Basketball contender Michael Moreno – despite shooting only 32.7 percent from the floor.
Moreno suffered a fracture in his right foot during the Cardinals’ trip to Myrtle Beach for a tournament at the end of December. He’s expected to miss all of January and might not return until mid-February for the Cardinals.
David Johnson – a Louisville signee – was absent for No. 2 Trinity. He went down with an MCL sprain during the King of the Bluegrass tournament on Dec. 22. Johnson’s expected to be back on the floor in a couple of weeks.
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Scott County this weekend continued to prove itself capable of contending without its leading scorer and rebounder. It defeated the Shamrocks less than 24 hours after fending off an upset at Henry Clay, beating the Blue Devils, 67-59, on Friday. The Cardinals are unbeaten against Kentucky competition and 15-1 overall.
“We’re learning to execute on offense without Michael and we faced two tough defenses in Trinity’s defense and Henry Clay’s defense,” Scott County Billy Hicks said.
Diablo Stewart scored a game-high 25 points, had three steals and was 11 of 12 from the free-throw line for Scott County. Ethan Hodge had 17 points to lead Trinity.
Scott County survived its own shooting woes while giving up a nearly 50-percent clip to Trinity (46.9 percent) and giving up seven three-point tries on 13 Shamrock attempts. The Cardinals were 3-for-18 from behind the line – 0-for-6 in the second half – but made up some ground on the glass; they out-rebounded Trinity, 37-24, and had a 16-3 advantage in offensive boards.
“We had finally started getting everybody rebounding,” Hicks said. “Nobody had great numbers, but Bryce (Long) had seven, Glenn (Covington) had five, Lorenzo (Williams) had six and Kobi (Harris) had six. … We’ve gotta rebound by committee now.”
Terrin Hamilton, a junior, followed his own shot on a miss and gave Scott County its first second-half lead with 1:10 remaining in the third quarter. The Cardinals never trailed from that point.
“He watched us play Trinity last year,” Hicks said of Hamilton. “This year he got to play.”
Trinity, which led for most of the first half and third period, pulled to within a possession on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter but couldn’t take the lead.
That’s where Johnson would have provided a big lift.
“For us, David is the guy who calms the game down from the guard position, he’s our point guard” Trinity Coach Mike Szabo said. “Against a team like that, David has (experience against their pressure) so we needed somebody to calm it down. And he’s another guy that can rebound and defend. He’s a really, really good player.”
Szabo likes what Trinity is capable of this season. The Shamrocks are 2-5 in their seven games without Johnson (including the game he was injured), but the most recent win came on Friday – a 46-43 come-from-behind decision over 7th Region rival St. Xavier in front of a sold-out crowd at Bellarmine University.
“We’re doing some good things and I like this team a lot,” Szabo said. “They’re really good guys who fight really hard. So we’re gonna keep at it and keep trying to get better.”
Hicks said “everybody has got to grow up” with Moreno sidelined for at least the next month. He’s seeing that growth, and looks forward to what it could mean in a few weeks.
“If we meet down the road, Mike’ll be back and Johnson will be back and it’ll be another war,” Hicks said.