Cooper Robb and Michael Moreno scored 20 points apiece for No. 9 Scott County, which came to No. 8 Henry Clay and got a 74-63 win on Friday night. More importantly, the Cardinals put the 11th Region on notice: they might be young, but they’re every bit as capable of producing in big moments.
Three players in the Cardinals’ starting five are freshmen, including Moreno. Robb is a sophomore. The remaining starter, Cooper Watts, is a junior. The only senior on the roster is Clem Damron.
The kids were heady down the stretch as Henry Clay attempted to rally. The Blue Devils used a 9-2 run, capped by a pair of free throws by Isaiah “Pun” Tisdale, to pull within 59-53 with just under four minutes to play. Scott County responded with a 9-4 burst.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
“What we lack in age we bring back in experience,” said Moreno, alluding to the AAU circuits on which he and some of his teammates play. “ ... Our team chemistry is really good because we all grew up together. It’s been real easy to cooperate on the floor.”
It was a good turnabout from summer scrimmaging, Cardinals Coach Billy Hicks said, during which the Blue Devils beat down Scott County.
“That’s life in the 11th Region,” he said. His guys have been motivated since August, when the Cardinals were spurned in the preseason rankings both on an individual and team basis.
“Our guys got a little something to prove. They’ve got a little chip on their shoulder.”
Scott County had success all night collapsing on Blue Devils in the lane and forcing perimeter shooters off their accustomed spots. Henry Clay finished the night 1-for-14 from beyond the arc, the only one coming from Paul Price during their fourth-quarter rally.
Tisdale ended with a game-high 24 points but needed as many shots to make it happen. The Devils’ star was 9-for-24 from the field while going 6-for-8 from the free-throw line.
“We were able to close ’em down and they weren’t finishing strong at the basket so we were able to capitalize and stop ’em,” Moreno said.
JaQuise Simpson scored the game’s first basket seconds into the game, igniting a 10-4 start for the Blue Devils. The Cardinals locked in and came away with a 17-16 lead after one quarter. Henry Clay briefly retook the edge on a pair of Tisdale free throws early in the second quarter, but Scott County ended up with a 42-33 lead heading into the break after Robb drained a 22-foot three-pointer as time expired.
Henry Clay Coach Daniel Brown said Scott County played with more energy most of the night and his team’s defensive effort was “not up to par.”
“Give the young guys a little credit,” Brown said of the Cardinals. “ ... They played pretty well. We didn’t shoot real well, I think 1-for-15 from threes, so hats off to them. Round two should be fun.”
The second game in the 42nd District rivalry is Feb. 5 at Scott County. The green Cardinals won’t be sneaking up on anyone anymore.
“Everyone doubted us at the beginning of the year,” Moreno said. “.. I think we’ve made a statement and proved everybody wrong, especially coming into Henry Clay and beating that team by double digits.”
Scott County 74, Henry Clay 63
Scott County (16-1) — Long 10, Robb 20, Covington 11, Moreno 20, Damron 8, Watts 5.
Henry Clay (14-2) — Tisdale 24, Price 9, Ridgeway 14, Jones 4, J. Mitchell 3, Simpson 2, Houston 7