CYNTHIANA — With four returning starters and a fifth who made the district all-tournament team off the bench a year ago, Scott County shouldn’t have experienced much apprehension heading into the first girls’ basketball exhibition of the season Tuesday evening.
That pit in the stomach set in early, however, when 13 of the Lady Cards’ first 14 3-point attempts didn’t go down, and when nobody other than sixth-year senior Kenady Tompkins scored in a frosty first half.
SC stormed back for a 47-34 victory at Harrison County, but on a paper it’s a game the five-time defending 41st District champions probably would win by 20 or 30 in midseason form.
“We looked very inexperienced. We looked very shaken. We were very passive,” Scott County coach Steve Helton said. “We shouldn’t be with that first group. That first five, they’ve been in some big games.”
Consecutive baskets by Maleiyah Moore — one a 3-pointer from the left wing, the other a fast break layup — started SC’s climb from an 18-11 deficit midway through the third quarter.
Emma Price’s baseline drive broke a 26-all tie to start the fourth period and put the Cards in front for good. Trapping defense and a lockdown on the defensive glass finally fueled the prolific high-octane approach for which Scott County is widely known.
“In spurts, there were some small bright points,” Helton said. “The problem was we didn’t change anything from the first half to the second half, That was the plan the first half.”
Tompkins, six feet tall but still bringing the ball up the court out of necessity at times, set the pace with 20 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.
“She had 11 points the first half, and I told them at halftime, somebody ought to put five (defenders) on her and just dare the other four to make a play,” Helton said. “Somebody will eventually, or at least put two on her. We’re struggling to try to find a point guard again.”
Price (10 points), Moore (eight points, eight rebounds) and Tyra Young (five points, nine boards) resuscitated an offense that shot 5-for-26 overall in the first half.
Brianna Penney matched Moore with four steals and was instrumental in helping the defense force 23 turnovers and frustrate the Fillies into 24.4 percent shooting.
Caroline VanHook led Harrison County with 13 points. Kara Hines added 10.
“I drove over here wanting to just sit there and not say anything and let them play their way through it. That lasted about 30 seconds,” Helton said. “We’re going to take this as November 16th and go back and watch the tape, because I think a lot of times I see things and people think I’m just seeing things.”
Moore and Price did all the scoring during a 13-2 run in the third quarter. Young’s 3-point play and Tompkins’ spin for two backed up Price’s bucket to open the fourth.
“I say sometimes, and I hope I’m wrong, but if we don’t play almost perfect, we’re gonna struggle to be competitive,” Helton said. “I’m not saying struggle to win but struggle to be competitive, especially if we get in foul trouble with that first group, which we will. We didn’t sub that second half.”
When asked to define perfect, Helton was mostly concerned with the Cards’ frequent misses after getting to the rim.
“You need to finish. You can’t make unforced turnovers repeatedly. We threw the ball out of bounds twice without any movement. We got runouts, but I don’t know how many we finished on. I can count maybe two that we scored on,” he said. “And you’re not going to shoot 1-for-14 and dig out of it. It’s just not going to happen. I worry about our competitive side. You don’t become great shooters by an hour or two of practice. You become a great shooter by working on your own.”
Scott County will host Newport Central Catholic at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the finale of its all day Preseason Hoopfest.
Harrison County also will play in the event along with East Jessamine, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Simon Kenton, Madison Central, North Oldham, Tates Creek, Rockcastle County, Amderson County and North Bullitt.
“This is going to be a progression. When we line up Saturday, hopefully we’ll be a little bit better, It’s not going to happen overnight,” Helton said. “We’ve got kids who need to step up and play from the tip.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.