LEXINGTON - Coach Billy Hicks compared the presumptuous, playful atmosphere in the Scott County boys’ basketball locker room Friday night at Bryan Station to a pizza party.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, the feast finally happened in the fourth quarter, sparing them what would have been the biggest upset in the state so far this season.
SC closed with a 30-7 run over the final six minutes, smashing the final tie of a back-and-forth 42nd district battle that turned into an 85-62 win.
"I’ve never seen cutting up like that. I’ve got to do a better job getting the locker room under control before the game and getting everybody ready to play, and they’ve got to help," Hicks said. "They’re seniors. They ought to know better. These guys have played here four times. They ought to know how to tough it’s always been. That’s what disappoints me."
Neither the respective records nor Scott County's 98-53 win over Bryan Station in December made the rematch feel threatening, on the surface.
Glenn Covington scored nine of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter for No. 1 Scott County (23-1 overall, 6-0 district).
He led five Cards in double figures, including Lorenzo Williams with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Diablo Stewart, still fighting the effects of a stomach virus, scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, including the 3-pointer that put SC ahead to stay.
"We finally started getting stops, and mainly hitting shots," Stewart said. "They were giving us their best shot and out-hustling us to loose balls, getting more rebounds than us. That definitely was the key factor for them."
Terrin Hamilton added 12 points and Bryce Long 11 for Scott County. Cam Fluker chipped in eight.
James Lindsay led Bryan Station (4-16, 1-5) with 21 points. Myles Morones mustered 18, while Jalen Burbage combined 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. The Defenders looked like a different team than in the previous encounter, largely due to Burbage’s return at point guard.
It was the sixth second-half comeback for SC during its current 10-game win streak.
"Our approach to the game wasn’t very good," Hicks said. "Anytime you play in the 11th Region or go into the city of Lexington, you’d better be ready to play. They’ve all got athletes, and you’ve got to play team basketball. It’s going to catch up with us sooner or later."
There were 13 lead changes and five ties.
Scott County, which earned Hicks career win No. 1,000 the previous night at Frederick Douglass, trailed by seven multiple times in the first half. Hamilton’s five-point binge in the final minutes salvaged a 33-28 deficit.
It was reminiscent of last year's sluggish first half at Station, although the Defenders were a top-five team in the state at that time with Eric "Boss" Boone as the centerpiece.
"We’ve never had an easy game here," Hicks said. "We came out not ready. We were feeling our oats from (Thursday) night, and Bryan Station, you’ve got to give them credit. Those kids played their tails off."
Hamilton also started the second half with a dunk off Long’s steal to trigger an 8-0 run. Four consecutive free throws by Hamilton and Stewart supplied a 36-33 lead.
Back stormed Bryan Station to take the lead on a floater by Lindsay that became a 3-point play.
Lindsay later countered consecutive baskets by Covington with a 3-pointer to put Bryan Station on top 46-44 late in the period.
Kobi Harris’ steal and put-back started a 3-point play to reclaim SC’s advantage in the closing seconds.
"Finally we started to play the defense we can play, started getting the ball up and down the floor and doing things we can do and started hitting some shots," Hicks said. "When we come out stiff like that, we just don’t get a whole lot done out there."
Covington and Fluker strong together baskets early in the fourth before Pierre Petit Frere’s only four points of the night drew the Defenders even at 55.
It was all Scott County from there. Covington followed Stewart’s bomb with a baseline drive for a 3-point play after an offensive rebound.
"When Glenn decides to play, when he drives, he goes with authority," Hicks said. "He’s just so strong around the basket, and he can go with either hand. But you can’t drive if you just decide to cool-breeze it. He’s got to get out of that comfort zone."
Stewart cashed in another second-chance bucket for a quick eight-point lead.
The point guard returned to the lineup after sitting the start of the Douglass game. He went three quarters without a field goal at Bryan Station.
"I’m sweating a ton," he said. "I felt like I had to throw up a few times, but Coach kept me in. I finally decided if I throw up, I throw up. I just gave it all I had."
Burbage had Bryan Station’s final two field goals of the game. Covington matched those with threes, however, while Harris, Fluker, Williams and Jaylen Barber all padded the lead as SC hit the accelerator.
SC shot 53.8 percent in the second half while holding Station to 31 percent.
The Cardinals face back-to-back toughies at home next Friday against Henry Clay and Saturday versus Walton-Verona at Lafayette’s Jock Sutherland Classic.
"It’s been a tough stretch for us, but now we get a week off, a full week, so we’ll be ready," Stewart said.