The Scott County boys' basketball team spent last week in warm, sunny Myrtle Beach, playing hoops and residing on the 18th floor of a beach-front hotel with a spectacular ocean view.
"It was more like being on a cruise ship," Coach Billy Hicks said, "because all you saw was water."
After winning three of four games and taking the consolation title in the Beach Ball Classic, the No. 6 Cardinals returned home to cold, snow and a tough 42nd District showdown at No. 19 Henry Clay Tuesday night.
It wasn't like a walk on the beach, but Scott County won 65-56 for its 17th consecutive victory over the Blue Devils since 2006.
"I missed Kentucky," Tamron Manning said after leading the Cards with 18 points, 16 rebounds and four steals.
Manning, a 6-foot-4 senior who has signed with Marshall, had a rough night shooting. He was 4-for-16 from the field, but he never quit attacking the basket and wound up making 10 of 14 free throws.
Teammate Isaiah Ivey, a Gardner-Webb signee, also struggled to find his stroke. The 6-3 senior was 4-for-12 from the field. But he hit five of six from the foul line and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
"When me and Isaiah aren't playing good, it's tough for us to win," Manning said. "So we talked at halftime about how we've gotta get it going because we're the senior leaders. If the younger guys see us struggling, they'll struggle."
Manning said even if he and Ivey weren't hitting their shots, they could do the "little things" — like talking, switching, rebounding and playing defense — to boost their team.
Sure enough, Scott County did those little things in a big fourth quarter as they broke out of a 45-45 tie to take control.
"I thought down the stretch Tamron Manning sort of took over," Hicks said.
The Cards' half-court defense also stifled Henry Clay, and the visitors controlled the boards. They outrebounded the taller Devils 41-29.
Trent Gilbert, a sophomore sharp-shooter, had 14 points for Scott County despite sitting out eight minutes of the second half with four fouls.
Juniors Quin Richardson and Jalen Haddix added eight points each.
Hicks was happy with the district win, but even happier about getting his team back in the gym for practice after 10 games in 14 days.
Henry Clay, coming off a third-place showing in the Republic Bank Holiday Classic, was right with the Cards until the final minutes when missed free throws and shaky rebounding cost the Devils.
Wes Kimball, a senior guard, led Henry Clay with 18 points. Sophomore Jordan Green had 16 points and six rebounds. Sophomore Trey Grundy had eight points and eight rebounds.
"The game was there for us to win," Coach Daniel Brown said, "but we just didn't take it. We showed our youth again. We missed free throws and didn't get some big rebounds.
"And I thought Scott County out-physicaled us."'
SCOTT COUNTY (11-3) — Manning 4-16 10-14 18, Ivey 4-12 5-6 13, Gilbert 5-7 2-2 14, Richardson 3-8 2-2 8, Harris 2-3 0-2 4, Haddix 4-7 0-0 8, Short 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-5 19-26 65.
HENRY CLAY (9-6) — Green -14 4-6 16, Kimball 8-12 1-1 18, Grundy 3-9 2-4 8, Cunningham 3-8 0-0 8, Tichenor 0-0 0-4 0, Blackburn 1-2 4-6 6, Ware 0-2 0-0 0. Totals20-47 11-21 56.
Scott Co. 10 17 16 22—65
Henry Clay 12 17 11 16—56