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Beating the other elite boys’ basketball teams in the state hasn’t been the issue lately for Scott County. Creating its own half court offense and grabbing rebounds have been bugaboos.
Part of that problem has been the lack of a starter above 6-foot-2 without injured Michael Moreno.
With that in mind, SC coach Billy Hicks gave 6-5 junior Terrin Hamilton his first career varsity start Thursday night against Sayre.
The tactic paid off with all five starters scoring in double figures — led by Hamilton and Diablo Stewart with 15 points apiece — in an 89-44 Cardinals’ rout.
Despite going 6-1 minus Moreno, this was SC’s first time above 73 points in that stretch after averaging above 85 before his ailment.
“They wanted a presence in the post area, so they put me in there hoping I would show up, and I did,” Hamilton said.
Home, sweet home and an over-matched 42nd District opponent were good medicine for battle-worn Scott County, which reeled off comeback wins over Henry Clay, Trinity and Madison Central in a five-night stretch
SC never trailed in its first non-away game since Dec. 21. The Cardinals shot 57.8 percent from the field and forced 24 turnovers while committing only five.
Lorenzo Williams added 13 points for the Cardinals. Glenn Covington chipped in 11, and Bryce Long tacked on 10.
“It got everybody back in their regular positions,” Hicks said. “We’ll know down the road, but tonight we looked all right. We looked better, more balanced.”
Moving back to his traditional sixth man role made a difference in Cam Fluker’s game, too. The crafty senior combined seven points with five steals and four assists.
Trey Dennis and Will Hairston topped Sayre (3-13, 0-2) with 10 points apiece.
Jaylen Barber, a 6-7 junior who hasn’t seen substantial time in the recent run of close games, joined Hamilton in the regular rotation and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
SC, usually among the top rebounding teams in the state, ranks only No. 32 in that category. The Cards clawed out a 32-20 advantage on the boards against the Spartans.
“What I liked about it is we missed 27 shots, and we had 18 offensive rebounds,” Hicks said. “They’ve got to do a better job of rebounding their shots. That’s the one thing, with Michael gone, it’s the area we’ve been weakest, getting offensive rebounds. So we started charting the heck out of that, and we did a better job tonight.”
Bigger bodies in the middle created more freedom on the perimeter, particularly for Covington. The hero of Tuesday’s 73-70 comeback win at Madison Central picked up where he left off, book-ending the opening period against the Spartans with matching 3-pointers.
Covington, Long and Stewart were a combined 7-for-15 from beyond the arc, and the Cards canned nine in all to end their recent struggles.
“Just trying to be consistent with my shots and get in the flow,” Covington said. “(Hamilton) opened up a whole lot, and on defense, having his presence down low.”
Hamilton posted up for a basket and piggybacked it with a tip-in during the Cards’ 7-0 opening run.
Stewart drove for two, then found Williams on the break after a steal to make it 13-2. Covington’s second bomb of the quarter and a second-chance hoop from Barber produced an 18-8 lead after one quarter.
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Three-pointers from Stewart and Covington sent Scott County on its way in the second quarter. Covington (four steals, four assists) was a persistent thorn in the Spartans’ side as fuel for the transition game.
“We’re trying to get Glenn to play through his comfort zone,” Hicks said. “Sometimes he gets comfortable out there and gets satisfied, and he doesn’t use his talents. Tonight he had to in the first quarter. I thought he was more aggressive. He was going after loose balls on the floor. That was really a great thing.”
Long scored seven consecutive points, beginning with a three off a cross-court pass from Covington, to give SC a 33-10 lead. He hit another triple in the closing seconds, followed by a Stewart steal and layup at the horn for a 46-19 cushion.
Williams’ 3-point play pushed it to 57-22 and a running clock at 5:33 of the third.
“Even though it was Sayre, I thought we came out with a lot of energy,” Hicks said. “I guess it was the excitement of being home.”
Scott County will stay here for its next four games, beginning Ashland Blazer at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, travel conditions permitting. The 24th annual Toyota Classic starts Wednesday.
The Cardinals have won 57 consecutive regular-season games against Kentucky opponents dating back to Dec. 2016.
“We’re just trying to get better each day, each game, keep everything consistent,” Covington said.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.