HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Defending state champion Mason County advanced to the boys' 10th Region basketball finals Monday night, routing Montgomery County 75-45.
The Royals, No. 11 in the state ratings, will face No. 16 Clark County in Tuesday's finals at 6 p.m.
The Cardinals took Monday's opener in the Bank of Kentucky Center, rallying for a 46-40 triumph over Scott.
Cards Coach Scott Humphrey said his team showed poise and was able to execute. Now, they want more.
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"There's not a lot of ripping and roaring going on in (the locker room). They're fatigued because Scott took a lot out of them," Humphrey said. "But our goal this year ... wasn't to make it to the regional final. There's still another rung on that ladder we're trying to climb."
Clark Co. 46, Scott 40: Sophomores Robbie Stenzel (18 points), Vinny Zollo (9) and Corey Rogers (8) combined for 35 points.
A 16-4 run to close the half gave Scott a 26-21 lead.
Nikola Gligorevic, a 6-foot-4 senior, led the Eagles with 11 first-half points. Kellen Smith added 10.
With Zollo on the bench for the last 4:56 of the half, because of two fouls, Gligorevic scored six points.
"In the first half, we played more zone than I wanted to," Humphrey said. "For the most part, we did a great job on the first shot. But they were killing us on the second shot, the put-backs."
But Clark held Gligorevic to a fourth-quarter three-pointer the rest of the way, and Smith added only a pair of fourth-quarter layups.
Trailing 29-21 in the third quarter, the Cardinals scored nine in a row to take a 30-29 lead. The go-ahead points came on a three-point play by Stenzel, while Zollo was on the bench because of an injured right ankle.
That's where he stayed the rest of the quarter, which ended with Scott on top 33-32.
Zollo, back for the start of the fourth quarter, hit a three-pointer with 4:45 left to regain the lead, 37-35.
While Scott (23-9) scored on only two of its last eight possessions, Clark (25-6) converted on seven of eight.
Mason Co. 75, Montgomery Co. 45: The Royals' run-and-jump press gave the Indians problems all night.
"We were able to pressure them and really bother them, not let them run offense," said Chris O'Hearn, Mason's coach. "And (we) were able to turn them over and get some easy points off turnovers."
A 16-10 difference in turnovers — most of Mason's came late in the game — led to a 31-7 advantage in points off turnovers. Plus, Mason shot 28-for-53 (52.8 percent) to Montgomery's 16-for-54 (29.6 percent).
The Royals trailed only once, on Azrey Crisp's three-pointer to start the game.
Russ Middleton led Mason (23-6) with 17 points.
Brandon Rash and Derrick Robinson scored 12 each to pace Montgomery (14-17).
"We know tomorrow night's going to be an absolute war," O'Hearn said. "We've got to be solid defensively."
Clark Co. 46, Scott 40
CLARK CO. (25-6) — Hatton 7, Stenzel 18, Williams 2, Zollo 9, Rogers 8, Daniel 2.
SCOTT (23-9) — Smith 14, Murray 0, Hagfors 3, Gligorevic 14, O'Connor 0, Niederegger 2, Jones 7.
Clark Co. 12 9 11 14—46
Scott 8 18 7 7—40
Mason Co. 75, Montgomery 45
MASON CO. (23-6) — Middleton 17, Setty 10, Hamm 0, Pawsat 13, Downing 6, Rice 8, Gilbert 6, J. Lang 4, King 3, B. Lang 6, Harris 2.
MONTGOMERY CO. (14-17) — Curtis 7, Rash 12, Darnell 0, Crisp 5, Manship 2, Robinson 12, Hendrix 7.
Mason Co. 15 22 23 15—75
Montgomery Co. 9 9 10 17—45