Scott County sophomore Trent Gilbert carried out a small covert operation before the boys' 11th Region basketball tournament.
He accompanied the Cardinals' coaches when they came to EKU's McBrayer Arena for the tournament draw last Saturday. "I got in a little shooting practice, got the feel of the floor and the gym," he said.
Gilbert's shooting on the sly paid off. He hit four of eight three-pointers and had 18 points to spark No. 3 Scott County to a 77-62 first-round victory over Lafayette on Thursday night.
The Cards got solid performances from senior stars Isaiah Ivey (22 points, seven rebounds) and Tamron Manning (13 points, eight rebounds, five steals), but Gilbert was the x-factor.
He scored 10 consecutive points, including a pair of threes, in a 70-second assault that stretched Scott County's lead to 19.
"We thought the key was to hold (Gilbert) to single digits," Lafayette Coach Mike Mendenhall III said. "Ivey and Manning are so good, they're going to get theirs. But (Gilbert) sparked that whole thing in the fourth quarter."
The Cards also got a needed lift from Quin Richardson, who had 11 points, including a pair of threes that his team needed to offset Lafayette's big bodies.
"Their size and athleticism really made it tough on us," Scott County Coach Billy Hicks said.
The Generals' 6-foot-4 junior Charles Sweat-Washington had 21 points and nine rebounds to lead Lafayette.
Tranard Chester, a 6-3 junior, had 12 points and six assists. Nick Trisko, a 6-6 junior, had 11 points and five rebounds. And Jackson Davis, a 6-8 sophomore, added nine points, four rebounds and three steals.
Lafayette stayed within striking distance of the Cards until it made a rash of turnovers in the second half. Scott County wound up converting 22 miscues into 29 points.
"That's been our Achilles' heel all year," Mendenhall said. "Points off turnovers killed us."
Nevertheless, Lafayette, without a senior on its roster, made Scott County work hard for its 29th win of the season.
"I sincerely believe we beat a top-10 team out there," Hicks said. "I can't imagine there are 10 teams better than the way Lafayette played."
Mendenhall appreciated the compliment.
"The kids are buying in. This just didn't happen two weeks ago. It's been happening since October 15th.
"With its history, Lafayette is an elite program in the state of Kentucky, and we want them to take pride in it."
LAFAYETTE (13-19) — Chester 5-9 0-0 12, Davis 4-6 1-3 9, Trisko 3-5 4-4 11, Blakely 1-5 1-2 3, Burlingham 2-3 0-0 4, Sweat-Washington 8-11 3-4 21, Hughes 1-3 0-0 2, Wright 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-43 9-13 62.
SCOTT COUNTY (29-4) — Manning 3-11 7-10 13, Ivey 9-12 3-3 22, Gilbert 6-14 2-2 18, Harris 1-5 4-4 6, Richardson 4-9 1-2 11, Bryant 2-2 1-3 5, Haddix 0-2 2-2 2. Totals 25-55 20-26 77.
Lafayette 14 16 10 22—62
Scott County 19 14 19 25—77