VERSAILLES — Win No. 966 of Billy Hicks' career was more agonizing and exasperating than any of the losses, according to Scott County’s boys' basketball coach.
SC hardly felt like celebrating its 60-56 survival Thursday night at Woodford County, and with good reason. The Cards clobbered the Yellow Jackets by 42 points at the Toyota Classic only three weeks ago.
“If you coach long enough, I guess you have a game like this, but I can't remember one,” Hicks said. “I know at Scott County we've never played this bad. In 24 years I don't remember a Scott County team playing as bad as we did.”
Hard to put a finger on this inexplicable turn of events. Hicks accepted some measure of blame for letting off the accelerator and substituting liberally after SC (25-1) opened a 20-point lead early in the second quarter. Ultimately, though, the Cardinals were in cruise control from the start, against a week's worth of warnings from their leader.
“Before the game it was all horsing around out there on the floor. The locker room was like a big party,” Hicks said. “My whole talk before the game was how I was aggravated with the way they were preparing for the game.”
The first quarter looked like business as usual. Scott County scored 14 consecutive points in one stretch. Three consecutive baskets from Michael Moreno and a matching number of 3-pointers by Glenn Covington, opened a 25-8 lead.
That margin grew to 32-12 on a three by Diablo Stewart early in the second period. Hicks gave stars Moreno and Cooper Robb a breather for the remainder of the half.
Woodford County (14-11) shut out Moreno in the second half, and Robb, still hobbled by a sprained ankle, appeared a step slow defensively. He was far from the only one.
“We couldn't get five people playing defense at one time. They always had somebody who could pop out and get the ball. We couldn't get five really hustling,” Hicks said. “They have some guys who are average players, and we made them look really good.”
Corey George hit a running 3-pointer to close the half, but SC still led 36-24 and didn't appear to be in any danger. That changed when the Yellow Jackets scored six consecutive points out of the locker room and held the Cards scoreless for the first four minutes. Robb's putback and four free throws provided most of the offense in a late rally that made it 46-37 with eight minutes to play.
SC went up 54-43 on Stewart's open 3-pointer early in the fourth, but Woodford County finished with a 13-6 flourish from there. Four missed free throws in the final 17 seconds and a 3-pointer by Ryan Duke at the buzzer left the Cards and their fans feeling fortunate that the game wasn't a minute longer.
Hicks knows any similar effort beyond the opening round of the 11th Region tournament would be a season-ender.
“I'd hate to play this bad and not learn from it,” Hicks said. “We only put 60 points on Woodford County. I guess when you win, win, win, sometimes, and we beat them so bad earlier ... but on the other hand, you've got to admire them.”
George led all scorers with 18 points. Brandon Cromwell added 17 and Duke 11 for the Jackets.
Stewart topped four Cards in double digits with 13. Covington and Bryce Long each notched 11, followed by Robb with 10. Moreno tore down 11 rebounds and blocked four shots.
The 60 points are SC’s smallest total against a Kentucky opponent this season, eclipsing the previous low of 67 in a win at Taylor County.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.