None of the numbers right now are what the Scott County boys' basketball program is accustomed to seeing.
Being out-rebounded and missing half their free throws simply aren't Cardinal traits. Neither is losing back-to-back-to-back games to open a season, but that's the reality after this past weekend.
The jolting journey began with a 69-57 defeat Friday night against Henry Clay to open the 42nd District schedule at Al Prewitt Gymnasium in Lexington.
“That would be the epitome of laying an egg,” SC coach Tim Glenn said. “I'm beside myself. We didn't play great defensively the other day (in the season-opener at Madison Central), but we didn't play that bad.”
A better effort still produced a disappointing finish Saturday night, when the Cardinals fell 66-64 in overtime to Mason County at the Royals' historic fieldhouse.
SC hadn't even started a season 0-2 since at least before the Cardinals' first state championship season of 1997-98. The KHSAA archive on its website only goes back to that year. Three strikes are unheard of.
“I think with this team there's two or three things we're gonna have to do (in practice), and we're gonna have to do it every day,” Glenn said. “One of it's learning how to guard our own yard.”
Aziel Blackwell fought through an ankle injury for 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists to lead Henry Clay, which has won four of its last five games against Scott County. Darik Holman added 11 points and six boards, while Kanye Henderson combined eight points with 10 rebounds.
Elias Richardson and Isaiah Haynes each scored 16 points to pace the Cardinals. Chase Grigsby chipped in 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.
In perhaps the most telling statistic of the night, the Blue Devils owned a 41-25 advantage on the glass. They grabbed more offensive rebounds (16) than the Cardinals secured (13) on the defensive end.
“I don't think we've ever gotten out-rebounded like that. Chase Grigsby led us in rebounding with four. That's all you need to know,” Glenn said. “Part of it's positioning and using your body and not just jumping. We had a lot of times even on the defensive side where we ran up under the goal. Lord knows we've got two or three different drills we do.”
After SC took its final lead of the night, 25-24, with 4:38 remaining in the second quarter on a Jeremy Hamilton free throw, Henry Clay (1-2, 1-0) went on a 33-12 tear until the end of the third period.
And while the Cards cut a 22-point deficit back to a dozen at the finish, a 7-for-14 showing from the line caused that comeback to fizzle. Henry Clay also alleviated the run by breaking Scott County's press for three timely buckets in the fourth quarter.
“I do commend them on the fact that if you get down 22, you could quit. Those guys played hard and continued to play,” Glenn said. “That's where I thought we would be. I thought we would give them a little harder time with pressure, but they got open shots and made 'em, and we dug that hole.”
SC forced 17 turnovers, but Henry Clay compensated with 52 percent shooting.
Two early 3-pointers from Blackwell set the tone as Henry Clay surged to an 8-0 lead. Scott County battled back, fueled by three Grigsby baskets in a 9-0 run that put the Cards on top, 17-15.
Richardson beat the horn with a 3-pointer to make it 20-17 SC going into the second stanza, but a pair of put-backs from Holman and a three by Mason Hawkins resuscitated the Henry Clay offense.
After Haynes' 3-pointer later ended a 9-0 Devils' run, Blackwell matched it and sent his team to the halftime huddle with a 37-28 cushion.
Henderson hit a trifecta to signal more of the same at the start of the third quarter.
“A lot of times we got the shots we wanted, but we weren't going towards the basket,” Glenn said. “We shot a fade-away, which if you miss it, you get nothing. If you're going towards the basket, you've got the possibility of a foul, got a chance for a rebound. A fade-away, it's gotta go in.”
Scott County's streaky nature continued in Saturday's segment of the road swing.
Philip Bierley hit the game-winning basket for the Royals, who gave up 14 consecutive points to end the first quarter and trailed the Cardinals by that same margin midway through the second period before rallying to the victory.
Haynes led SC with 19 points and had a quality shot in the closing seconds of overtime that wouldn't go down.
Richardson scored three different baskets to tie the game in the fourth quarter or overtime for Scott County and ended the night with 12 points. Nick Mosby managed a career-high 14 off the bench on 6-for-8 shooting, while Jeremy Hamilton hauled down a team-leading 10 rebounds. Grigsby compiled five points, four rebounds and four assists.
Nate Mitchell topped Mason County with 20 points. Terrell Henry added 16 and Bierley 10 for the Royals, who trailed 30-20 at halftime before cutting it to 44-40 on Mitchell's 3-pointer at the third-period horn. That countered consecutive baskets from Haynes to stop a Royals' run.
The game was tied at 48, 52, 54, 56 and ultimately 57 to end the fourth quarter. Both teams missed numerous opportunities to put away the game at the free-throw line: SC was 6-for-14 at the stripe, while Mason went 9-for-20.
Haynes gave SC a 61-59 lead off the glass with two minutes remaining in OT, but Mason County answered with the next five points, including a go-ahead three from A.P. Perry.
There were 10 ties and six lead changes on the night.
After falling behind 7-1 at the outset, SC scored 26 of the next 32 points to grab its largest lead.
Scott County lost by two at Madison Central on Tuesday. Mason County's previous game also went to overtime, a loss at Bourbon County.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.