Battle for the ball

Peyton Riddle of Scott County scraps with Summer Secrist of Scott High for possession during Friday’s senior night game at SCHS while Lady Cards’ coach Steve Helton looks on. Riddle scored 20 points, highlighting an outstanding night for SC’s seven seniors in a 93-69 victory. Scott County extended its win streak to 15 games and is 25-2 on the season with one regular-season contest to play.

James Scogin

Parts of Friday night’s game weren’t aesthetically pleasing from a Scott County girls’ basketball perspective. Coach Steve Helton’s wheels already were turning as he pondered teachable moments at the next practice or two.

Criticisms and fine-tuning could wait, though, in the immediate aftermath of a 93-69 win over Covington Scott High. There were mixed-emotion tears to be shed and chocolate-frosted cupcakes to be consumed.

“It’s a celebration for them and their parents and their families and everything they’ve done for our program. That’s the most important thing right now,” Helton said. “The game, it was a pretty good win. We didn’t always play as well as we needed to.”

Scott County (25-2) showed enough style to extend the program’s longest win streak in eight years to 15 games.

The team’s senior star, Peyton Riddle, finished with 20 points and six rebounds in her next-to-last home game. Another soon-to-be graduate, Lexi Hoffman, added 10 points, leaving to a loud ovation after her second 3-pointer of the night.

“It is definitely something that I’m going to remember,” Hoffman said.

SC showed why the program should challenge for regional and state titles for at least another year or two after this winter’s run. Junior Maaliya Owens had 26 points and six boards. In addition to 14 points and four assists, sophomore Morgan DeFoor leapfrogged the 1,000-point barrier.

DeFoor joins Riddle and Owens in that club. Riddle vaulted past 1,800 points on the Class of 2018’s special night.

Zakiyia Holt (six points), MaKala Smith (four points), Keyonna Christopher (two points, four rebounds), Emma Turner (three rebounds) and Zephaniah Gray (three assists) also took full advantage of their senior moments.

“It’s good to see all the seniors be able to get out and contribute and have a good night,” Riddle said. “It’s always exciting when everybody’s getting involved. It was a fun night for us.”

Scott High’s celebrated senior, Anna Clephane, who has signed with Division I Ball State University, led all scorers with 28 points. SC frustrated her into an 8-for-29 night from the field.

“She’s for real. (There were times) we couldn’t find her, and I promise you she was high on the scouting report,” Helton said. “Her picture was on the board. ‘If seen, please don’t try to guard one-on-one.’ There were all kinds of things around her name.”

Between the unusual all-senior starting rotation and the flood of emotions, the Lady Cards stumbled to a 10-7 deficit out of the gate.

Owens and DeFoor’s entry into the game coincided with a 13-0 run. Each hit a 3-pointer. Riddle added another triple, courtesy of a steal by DeFoor.

Scott County went 15-for-32 from beyond the arc. Owens and DeFoor each drained another three early in the second quarter.

DeFoor’s run of seven consecutive points gave the Lady Cards a 34-14 lead and pushed her past the scoring milestone.

“A big shout out to Morgan. She didn’t want to take anything away from senior night,” Helton said. “We’ll present her a ball on Tuesday (at the final home game against Oldham County). What an incredible accomplishment for a sophomore. Now we’ve got three kids out there who have done it.”

SC held Scott High to two field goals in the second period but struggled to put the game farther out of reach.

Owens scored 13 in the quarter. Juliette Smith’s 3-pointer helped SC to a 54-32 locker room lead, but the Lady Cards weren’t getting defensive stops with their usual ferocity.

“For the first time all season I felt like our conditioning was in question,” Helton said. “The positive side of me says it’s because our emotions were so high, and when you get so jacked up, you get tired quickly.”

Riddle hit two 3-pointers and Hoffman nailed another to maintain the senior theme in the third quarter. 

SC struggled to stop Sofia Allen, who scored eight of her 18 points in a short window, but the lead remained comfortable at 73-51.

Helton took out his seniors one-by-one, with exquisite timing, late in the fourth quarter. Christopher exited after a fast-break layup. Hoffman’s substitute was waiting at the scorer’s table when she hit her second 3-pointer and broke double digits.

“It was really exciting, because some of us don’t really get those moments,” Hoffman said. “We just tried to make the most of it.”

The coach called Hoffman the best pure athlete he has coached in 18 years at SC.

“That was a good chance for the crowd to recognize her,” Helton said. “Every one of them came in tonight and did something positive. I’m really happy for them and their families.”

Summer Secrist had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Scott High (15-10), yet another SC opponent that has been ranked in Kentucky’s top 25 at some point during the season.

The Lady Cards held the Eagles to 32.5 percent shooting, although the visitors’ 11 turnovers were an unusually low number.

“I’m really frustrated with our defensive breakdowns,” Helton said. “We had huge letdowns, even offensively, and maybe it’s because we were out of rhythm.”

Kal Oakes can be reached via email at sports@news-graphic.com.