RICHMOND — "Red Heat" is the favorite cheer of Scott County basketball fans when their Cardinals are playing scorched-earth defense.
But "Red Heat" perfectly described Scott County's overall performance in the 11th Region finals against Woodford County on Tuesday night in EKU's McBrayer Arena.
Torqued and torrid, especially in the second half, the No. 3 Cards looked every bit like a state championship contender as they routed the Yellowjackets 78-43.
Scott County (31-4) advances to play Marshall County (32-2) in the PNC/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena next week.
"We had the motivation to come out in front of a big crowd and prove we're the best team in the region," said tournament MVP Tamron Manning. "We showed it with our poise and our focus."
Sophomore sharpshooter Trent Gilbert led the Cards' offensive assault with 23 points, including 5-for-6 three-point shooting. Junior point guard Quin Richardson had 16 points and five rebounds.
Manning had 14 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Senior Isaiah Ivey added six points, seven rebounds and five assists as Scott County won for the 24th time in its last 25 games.
Billy Hicks, who has led the Cards to nine region titles in 18 years, looks to have a team talented enough to win the program's third state title.
Scott County's pressure defense rattled Woodford County from the opening tip, forcing three quick turnovers that fueled a 9-0 start.
Coach Scott Hundley said his Yellowjackets never got comfortable on offense.
"They pushed us out on the floor and made us play at 30 feet rather than on the three-point line where we like to play," he said. "They're just so physical, quick and long at the guard spots.
"Their quickness makes up for their lack of a big post."
Woodford County regained its footing after its early problems and trailed only 37-28 at halftime. But the Jackets were overwhelmed in the second half as Scott County outscored them 41-15.
Most of Woodford County's offense came from 6-foot-7 senior Jay Johnson, who had 21 points. He hit only four of 13 shots, but made 13 of 20 free throws.
The Jackets were 4-for-22 from the field in the second half (18 percent) and finished 10-for-38 (26 percent).
Scott County shot 56 percent for the game, including 68 percent in the second half.
"That's ridiculous, unbelievable," Gilbert said.
Manning said that when the Cards shoot that well, "we're hard to beat. We're fortunate it happened today in a big game and big situation."
Hicks said Woodford County might have come into the finals emotionally and physicially spent after upsetting No. 12 Lexington Catholic and No. 5 Madison Central in the first two rounds.
"Playing two top-15 teams in the state has to take it out of you," he said.
Hundley, who played for Hicks at Scott County, knows what a great team looks like, and he saw one in his own Yellowjackets. Seniors Jay Johnson, David Greenwell, Addison Hollin, Rodney Gross, Aaron Stover and William Starcher led them to the region finals for the first time in 26 years.
"It's kind of a cliche," Hundley said, "but I've heard the saying, 'If you shoot for the moon, you land among the stars.' We've got a lot of stars on this team, and they embodied what Woodford County is all about."
SCOTT CO. (31-4) — Manning 4-6 5-7 14, Ivey 2-11 1-2 6, Gilbert 8-9 2-2 23, Harris 3-6 0-0 6, Richardson 6-9 3-4 16, Bryant 1-2 0-0 2, Haddix 1-2 4-4 6, Peterson 1-1 0-0 2, Short 1-1 0-0 2, Doss 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 27-48 16-21 78.
WOODFORD CO. (22-13) — Johnson 4-13 13-20 21, Hollin 0-0 2-2 2, Greenwell 2-8 0-0 5, Starcher 1-3 0-0 3, Gross 1-3 0-0 2, Boggess 1-5 3-3 5, Stover 1-3 0-0 2, Young 0-1 0-0 0, Ham 0-0 1-2 1, Hamilton 0-1 0-0 0, Howell 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 10-38 21-29 43.
Scott Co. 22 15 22 19—78
Woodford Co. 12 16 9 6—43
All-tournament: Tamron Manning (MVP), Isaiah Ivey, Trent Gilbert, Quin Richardson of Scott County; Jay Johnson, David Greenwell, Rodney Gross of Woodford County; John O'Bryan, Dominique Hawkins of Madison Central; Ryan Timmons, Casey Tabor of Franklin County; Jack Whitman of Lexington Catholic; Charles Sweat-Washington of Lafayette; Jaylen Beckham of Bryan Station; Tyler Abshear of Madison Southern.