Crowd pleaser

Zion Harmon has drawn a crowd ever since he arrived in Kentucky and helped Bowling Green High School to a KHSAA Sweet 16 title as an eighth-grader. Now a freshman and the leading scorer in the state at Adair County, Harmon will bring his talents to Scott County on Monday night.

Larry Vaught

Scott County boys' basketball set the tone by traveling to Louisville for a showdown with Ballard on the first Friday night of the season.

Since then, the Cardinals have cycled through the likes of Lexington Christian, Lexington Catholic, Waggener, Moeller (Ohio), Lanett (Alabama), Bishop Gorman (Nevada), Madison Central, John Hardin, and Bryan Station, Henry Clay and Lafayette (each twice).

Somehow, the Cards are 24-1, undefeated in Kentucky and the unanimous No. 1 in the state. And even they might agree they've earned a breather.

“No offense to Woodford County and Floyd Central, but this is the first week all season we haven't been getting ready to face a team ranked in the top 25,” Hicks said.

SC travels to Versailles on Thursday night to face the Yellow Jackets (14-10) for the second time this season. The Cards cruised, 87-45, in the opening round of the Toyota Classic.

Floyd Central (15-9) is chasing the likes of Pike County Central and Paintsville in the 15th Region. That Saturday game at SCHS has been moved up to a 6 p.m. varsity start.

Hicks has added a game to Scott County's schedule to make up for an earlier weather-related postponement. The Cards will host Adair County and freshman phenom Zion Harmon at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Harmon, you may recall, was the starting point guard for the Bowling Green team that defeated Scott County in last year's KHSAA Sweet 16 quarterfinals. He leads the state with 33.3 points per game.

“They give him the green light,” Hicks said of Harmon. “They won a close game against LaRue County, and I'll bet he took the last 14 shots. He's an exciting player. It's a great chance for our fans to see one of the top-rated freshmen in the country.”

SC holds a 27-game home court win streak dating back to the start of the 2016-17 season.

Hurry up and wait

It has been a waiting game for Scott County girls' basketball, which suffered its first cancellation of the season when Mason County elected not to make Tuesday's trip due to the threatening weather forecast.

SC held a light, 40-minute shoot-around in the ninth-grade gym after hearing the news.

“I just wanted to see them,” SC coach Steve Helton. “We tried to keep them relaxed. This team plays better when it's relaxed.”

The cancellation leaves the Lady Cards with a 28-game regular-season schedule.

Teams are allowed to play 30. As was the case last season when weather interfered with the docket, Helton has attempted to add games, but there are few takers.

“When you're having a pretty good season, not a lot of teams want to play. Or they'll play, but they want you to come to their place,” Helton said.

As of now, assuming Wednesday night's district game at Bryan Station was played, SC has two games remaining, both at home. 

The Lady Cards' senior night ceremonies are Friday against Covington's Scott High, followed by a Tuesday game against Oldham County.

“We do it that way for two reasons,” Helton said. “One, in case we have more weather issues. Plus, we have seven seniors, and they only let us play five. We can't start the game seven-on-five with two technicals.”

Helton said he will hold a “lottery” for seniors Peyton Riddle, Zephaniah Gray, Zakiyia Holt, Lexi Hoffman, Emma Turner, Keyonna Christopher and MaKayla Smith. Five will start against Scott High, with the other two getting the honors against Oldham County.

Riddle and Holt are the only players in the regular starting lineup.

“It's more of a celebration than a sad night,” Helton said. “Most of our players are with us for six years, so it feels like we've had them forever.”

Not rank and file

With more than 250 schools playing girls’ and boys’ basketball in Kentucky, it is unusual to have both programs from one school ranked among the state’s best at the same time.

Scott County is doing just that, with a combined record of 47-3 through this past weekend.

“We’ve been No. 1 or No. 2 in just about all the polls and rankings since the start of the season, and now I think we’re considered No. 1 everywhere,” Hicks said of the SC boys.

Hicks’ team is a unanimous No. 1 in the Kentucky Associated Press poll for the second consecutive week. The Cards leapfrogged Trinity into that spot after the Shamrocks’ recent loss at Madison Central. 

Additionally, the Cards sit atop both the Cantrall (Lexington Herald-Leader) and Litkenhous (Louisville Courier-Journal) computer       rankings.

On the girls’ side, SC is fourth in the most recent Cantrall ratings, 12th in the Litkenhous and 7th according to the AP media.

“I can’t imagine there is another school in the state that has both teams in the top five,” Hicks said.

He’s right. Butler is the only other program represented in both the boys’ and girls’ consensus top 10.

Thie week’s AP boys’ poll shows Trinity second and Covington Catholic third. 

Butler vaulted three spots to fourth, followed by Fern Creek, Madison Central, Cooper, Ballard, Bryan Station and Lexington Christian.

SC is 5-0 against other teams in the boys’ AP top 10.

Based on last week’s KHSAA Sweet 16 draw, there is a chance for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 meeting in the first round, if Scott County and Trinity survive their respective regions next month.

The Lady Cards are ranked behind only Sacred Heart, Campbell County and Elizabethtown in the Cantrall tally, with defending state champion Mercer County fifth. 

SC has a win over No. 9 Ryle and a loss to No. 7 South Warren to its credit this season.

Murray and Butler, also two-loss teams, check in just ahead of Scott County in the current AP poll.

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