Scott County gained a hard-earned six-point victory at Lexington Catholic a few weeks ago, but the task will get even tougher for the No. 1 Cardinals against the Knights in the boys' 11th Region finals Tuesday night.
Richie Phares, a 6-foot-8 senior and Scott County's leading scorer and rebounder, will be sidelined for the rest of the post-season with an injured knee.
Phares, who was averaging 18 points and 8.8 rebounds, hurt his knee in the first quarter of the 11th Region semifinals against Lafayette on Saturday. On Monday, Phares had an MRI. His father, Ford, said the MRI showed Richie had a torn ACL. "When he got hurt, it didn't appear to be that type (ACL) of injury. But the MRI was pretty much black and white. Missing out maybe going to the state tournament your senior year is a real blow to him," Ford Phares said. "But he's doing pretty good considering. He's at practice trying to get the other kids fired up. They can still win it without him."
The Cards have three other consistent scorers in Ge-Lawn Guyn, UK commitment Dakotah Euton and Chad Jackson.
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Scott County (28-3), riding a 24-game winning streak, faces the No. 12 Knights (24-7) for the region title in EKU's McBrayer Arena at Richmond.
The schools have met in the region semifinals the past two years, and they've taken turns delivering 26-point knockouts.
In 2007, Scott County nuked the Knights 74-48 on its way to the state title.
Last year, Lexington Catholic crushed the Cardinals 80-54 on its way to Rupp Arena.
Tuesday, they'll go at it with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. Scott County beat the Knights 82-76 on Feb. 14.
Knights Coach Brandon Salsman talked about the challenge ahead, before he learned that Phares was out.
"Scott County has so many weapons, you've just got to do what you do and hope it's good enough," Salsman said.
Lexington Catholic seniors Vee Sanford and Taylor Botkin have carried the scoring load for the Knights in the region.
These teams have waged a great rivalry for more than a decade. Starting with Scott County's last-second win in the 1998 state semifinals, they have clashed 17 times. The Cards have nine victories (including a forfeit); Lexington Catholic has eight.