If there was a flaw in the 11th Region champion Scott County High School girls' basketball team the past two years – through no fault of its own – it was that tight spots and real challenges during the regular season were few and far between.
The Lady Cards encountered one of those bumpy roads Wednesday night and found their way to the finish, likely building belief for the long-term journey with a 75-59 victory over Madison Southern.
Few games have been more taxing and certainly none stranger in SC's recent run of success. The Eagles opened the evening with an eye-popping 12-0 run and summoned another 14-1 flurry near the end.
Scott County (2-0) thoroughly dominated the second and third quarters on the shoulders of Malea Williams and Morgan DeFoor to stave off the Madison Southern (1-1) upset bid.
“This game was wild,” SC coach Steve Helton said. “We found a way. My goodness. We hung in there. We showed some guts tonight.”
After sitting most of the first quarter due to two fouls for what seemed like trifling contact, Williams adjusted her attitude, adapted her game and took the Eagles to school with a furious, full-court clinic.
The 6-foot-4 major college prospect played of the most impressive games of her career with 22 points, 14 rebounds, five blocked shots and four steals.
“I was hot. I was so mad,” William said. “Honestly I was playing angry. I wasn't touching anybody, and then the girls started running their mouth, and I was just smiling. I can't out-call the refs, so I've just got to play my game.”
Kenady Tompkins, the other half of SC's six-foot tandem, also picked up two fouls in the first quarter. DeFoor, the Lady Cards' fiery shooting guard, sat most of the second quarter after a technical foul for alleged dissent toward an official.
Life didn't look promising when those factors were combined with a 25-11 deficit after eight minutes.
“They came out and they couldn't miss. I bet we had three turnovers and we didn't even take a shot. And bad turnovers when we had wide-open layups. We can't get in the habit of that,” Helton said. “They showed guts, and I guess with a new team that's been really challenged in the preseason, I'm very pleased to get this one out of the way.”
Emma Price's defense against Madison Southern star Samantha Cornelison (12 points, 12 rebounds) helped turn the tide.
Williams only picked up one additional foul. Her mere presence bolstered that battery of blocked shots by forcing more turnovers due to travels and second-guesses as the Eagles reconsidered their visits to the paint.
DeFoor returned to scored 14 of her 17 points in the second half, including four 3-pointers. Tompkins wound up with 11 points, and eighth-grader Maleiyah Moore added nine off the bench.
“It was crazy, but I'm just glad we pulled out of the hole that we were in,” Williams said. “All the new players, they're starting to get comfortable and used to our system. It's just taking time.”
Williams capped a run of 13 consecutive points with a 3-point play on the back of Moore's long-range bomb to give SC its initial lead, 29-27.
Moore nailed another 3-pointer and helped stretch that lead to 35-30 at the half
In the the third quarter, Williams went coast-to-coast to cash in a pair of steals, DeFoor applied the exclamation point with two threes in the final minute for a 54-39 advantage.
“Malea has the ability to take over a game on both ends. We've not had a player of that nature in a long time, especially of her stature,” Helton said. “You bring in a 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 who can guard a guard, who can dominate in the paint, who's started finishing.”
Once the lead grew to 70-45, Helton tried to give his starters a breather in what was the middle game of a three-games-in-four-nights stretch.
The Eagles' regular rotation went on a binge and brought the lead down to a dozen with 1:10 left, forcing the Cards' headliners to return. Tompkins promptly scored twice to shut it down.
'I didn't want to put that group back in, but when they took it from 25 to 12 in a minute-and-a-half, that wasn't a time to make everybody feel better,” Helton said.
Aleigh Richardson scored 19 points and Skylar Sparks 13 to lead Madison Southern.
Scott County hosted Frederick Douglass in the 42nd District opener after press time Friday night. The Lady Cards rolled to a 91-39 win.