If Friday night was the first real test in three weeks for the Scott County girls’ basketball team, the Lady Cards earned high honors.
Playing against a 21-win team with two 21-point-per-game scorers, SC looked the part of a state title contender in a 91-56 rout of South Laurel.
"I sent out a text to the girls, and I got it off somebody else, but it was, 'What if the team we are right now ever plays the team that we could be?' Tonight we showed some glimpses against a really good team," SC coach Steve Helton said. "I'm just glad to see a glimpse of where we're at. We put some preparation into this."
Malea Williams, a 6-foot-3 junior on the radar of countless NCAA Division I schools, showed why with 30 points, 22 rebounds (both career highs) and five blocked shots.
All five starters scored in double figures for Scott County (26-1).
"We knew it was going to be a game of runs. We did feel like we had a little bit of an advantage in the interior," Helton said. "Now, did I expect a 50-rebound night, with Malea 30 and 22 and KT (Kenady Tompkins) with a double-double? Those are big numbers against good teams."
Maaliya Owens and Juliette Smith each provided 15 points, with Smith dishing nine assists. Morgan DeFoor added 13 points and six assists.
Tompkins scored all 10 of her points in the second half to go with 10 rebounds.
"Coach was talking about their size," Williams said. "I just got into it and got going. Couldn't have done it without the team, though."
South Laurel had some height and athleticism across the board but struggled to keep pace with Scott County.
Ally Collett scored 27 for South Laurel (21-6) with the help of a 14-for-15 night at the free-throw line.
South Laurel’s other top scorer, Amarah Steele, was held without a field goal in the second half and finished with 11 points on 3-for-14 shooting. Sydnie Hall had 10.
"We made them shoot over us a few times. Communication was pretty good," Helton said. "Collett got us in foul trouble. The bench came in and played big. We did some good things tonight. This was a high-level game played by both teams. They came in averaging 77, and we held them a little under their radar."
It was a clash of Cardinals and a showdown of the KHSAA’s top two scoring offenses. Scott County entered the game averaging 82 per contest and padded that total while holding South Laurel more than 20 below its average.
SC never trailed, expanding a 25-16 lead after one quarter to 46-33 at the half, then 68-45 to end the third.
Williams had the early hot hand with 14 points through eight minutes.
"They talk about girls' basketball that they don't play around the rim? Malea played around the rim tonight," Helton said. "Now, was she above the rim? Probably not, but she was at the rim. She had three or four put-backs where you could see the confidence level."
Williams took 20 points into the half and was also disruptive defensively against South Laurel's dribble, drive and kick game.
"We locked down their threes and then had two bigs in the paint so they couldn't score," she said.
Smith joined the party in the second quarter with consecutive threes. Owens matched that with back-to-back corner bombs early in the third.
Braylee McMath scored six points in the fourth quarter and pushed the game to a running clock with 3:33 remaining.
"We did some good things offensively. Offensively I feel pretty good, but tonight defensively we stepped up," Helton said. "We rebounded. We executed. We did take a few shots out of rhythm, but most of our shots, especially early, were executed shots where we tried to get the ball into the interior."
Scott County wraps up the regular season at Oldham County on Tuesday and home against Campbell County next Friday. The Lady Cards open the 42nd District playoffs at Henry Clay on Wednesday, Feb. 20.
The Lady Cards' average margin of victory is 37 points during their current eight-game winning streak. Nearly hitting that on the nose against South Laurel took a championship-level performance.
"It was definitely a good game to get us back to working hard on the glass," Williams said.
"We've got to build on this, though," Helton cautioned. "I was a little skeptical because we hadn't been pushed in a while. Great game for us, but it's a February game. We can't get too high."