Years of clinical precision and second-half running clocks have given way to nightly drama for the Scott County boys' basketball program this winter.
Other than its rout of a smaller Christian school from South Carolina in the opening round of the Toyota Classic, almost every win or loss for SC has been a grind into the final two or three minutes of regulation.
And comfortable as Tuesday's 69-49 margin over Franklin County might appear, it was no picnic for most of the evening. The Cards clung to a one-possession lead before nine consecutive points from Terrin Hamilton and Elias Richardson left the Flyers on the tarmac late in the third quarter.
“We still didn't know time management at times, what we had and what we needed to do,” SC coach Tim Glenn said.
Scott County (12-13) flaunted more than enough firepower to avoid absorbing consecutive losses for the fifth time this winter. Hamilton had 18 of his game-high 23 points in the second half.
Richardson and Aaron Leake added 14 points apiece, the latter on the strength of four 3-pointers. Mikaleb Coffey picked up the pace at both ends of the court in the absence of starting point guard Chase Grigsby, piling up six points, five rebounds and five assists.
“We guarded really good. There were two exchanges where they really tried to isolate down low, and Mikaleb wound up switching, switching again, off the ball switching because he knew he had a better match-up,” Glenn said. “That impressed me. That's big time. Not a lot of high school kids know to do that. And the control, the way he passes the ball, opens it up for other people.”
Scott County scored the first seven points of the evening on a dunk by Hamilton, a steal and layup from Leake and a three-point play that began with a backdoor lob from Coffey to Richardson.
The Cardinals struggled to pull away, however, against the Flyers' 2-3 zone and other crafty defensive tactics.
Derrick King and Joe Meador drained 3-pointers to keep Franklin County within four at 13-9 after eight minutes.
Long balls from Leake (twice), Hamilton and Josh Bredwood pushed the margin to double digits before two in reply from Meador and another by Zac Cox headlined a 9-2 Flyer run.'
Richardson provided two baskets and a blocked shot in the final minute of the half to furnish a 33-24 lead.
“I thought (Richardson) battled as hard tonight that I've seen him do in a long, long time,” Glenn said.
FC (14-11) frustrated SC into a drought of nearly five minutes to open the third quarter. Defense was the saving grace for the Cardinals, who held the Flyers to buckets by Cox, Meador and Phillip Peiffer and prevented them from snagging the lead. Coffey found Hamilton in the low block, then Richardson flashing to the middle for a short jumper, to right the ship.
“They went with that triangle-and-two,” Glenn said. “Coach (Chris) Willhite and I said we can just run a regular offense, because we've got three guys that's gonna be open every time we pop up. That's why you're a team. You need guys that can step up.”
Hamilton's hot hand continued with a 3-point p[lay and a 15-footer from the right wing in the final 90 seconds of the period, making it a 44-34 margin.
His second bucket launched a clinching 11-0 run that included Leake's third and fourth strikes from long range.
Meador put up 15 points and Cox 12 to lead Franklin County. The Flyers are coached by SCHS athletics hall of fame member Tony Wise, who notched career win No. 300 earlier this season.
The Flyers' point total matched wins over Bardstown, Christian County and the Myrtle Beach visitors as the fewest allowed by the Cardinals this season. FC shot 38.8 percent.
“We kind of played that pinched-in defense,” Glenn said. “That's going to be our best one. When we do that right, we're hard to score on. We've got to have the right people in the right place.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.