Nate Valentine has been preaching the importance of toughness to his Lexington Christian Academy basketball team ever since he took the job seven months ago.
After LCA beat Scott County 61-49 in a bruising game Thursday night, Valentine can rest assured his players got his message.
Scott County Coach Billy Hicks would testify to that after watching his Cardinals shoot 30 percent, make 19 turnovers and get outscored 54-33 over the last three quarters.
"I think our guys wanted a nice, pretty, easy win, and you don't get that on the road in the 11th Region," Hicks said. "From the second quarter on, LCA just physically kicked our butts. They manhandled us, and we didn't respond."
LCA's Matt Rose did a lot of the rear-kicking. The 6-foot-7 senior had 33 points and 11 rebounds.
Rose, who'll play college hoops at Samford, got off to a slow start, as did the Eagles. Scott County's on-ball pressure helped the visitors build an 11-point lead early in the second quarter.
Valentine said he took responsibility for that. "I didn't have our guys in the right spots. Once we made a couple adjustments, they were able to make plays."
Rose began the game on the perimeter, looking to drive. But Scott County defended him so well, Valentine moved him to the blocks.
Rose dominated from there. During one stretch of the second half, he scored 18 consecutive points for LCA. He did it every which way, by hitting a three, rebounding, dunking and making free throws (he was 14 of 17 from the line for the night).
"Great coaching move," Rose said of Valentine's decision to relocate him in the low post. "And I was learning as the game went on to play through all the contact."
Junior guard Trevor Hill and eighth-grader Kyle Rode had 11 points each for LCA. Rode also had seven rebounds and five assists.
Tre King, a 6-6 sophomore, came off the bench and contributed an inside presence.
After the first quarter, John Stein and Drew Schacht did a nice job handling Scott County's pressure.
"This was a great challenge for us," Rose said. "When Scott County got on us early, we didn't panic. We stayed in the game and had a great team effort."
LCA won despite getting only a few minutes from 6-8 senior Drew Trimble, who recovered from an appendectomy in late November, only to roll his ankle in practice last week.
"Any time you get a win against Billy Hicks, one of the best coaches in the state, and a team like Scott County, it helps your confidence," Valentine said. "This is definitely something we can build on."
The Cards are still fitting new pieces together.
D.J. Jenkins, a transfer from Harrison County, had 14 points and four assists against LCA. Isaiah Johnson, a transfer from Madison Central, had 10 points in the first 10 minutes, but didn't score again because of foul trouble. Hines Jones, one of Scott County's returning veterans, had 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
"It's going to take us a little time to grow," Hicks said. "We're showing good signs, but we've got to get tougher.
"When LCA got really physical, we started settling for any shot we could get instead of trying to answer their physicality."
Scott County has another tough road game in the region Saturday night when it visits Lexington Catholic.
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN 61, SCOTT COUNTY 49
SCOTT COUNTY (2-2) -- Jenkins 14, Johnson 10, Jones 10, Banks 6, Watts 2, Hamilton 4, Washington 3.
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN (3-1) -- Rose 33, Rode 11, Hill 11, Stein 6, King 0.
Scott County 16 10 13 10—49
LCA 7 16 19 19—61