When you graduate four generational talents in three years, responsible for roughly 8,000 combined points, four consecutive district championships and two region titles, the starts, stops and delays of a pandemic are bound to hit you a little harder than they throw off everyone else.
Scott County showed those ill effects Tuesday night at home in a 60-35 loss to a tournament-tested Paul Laurence Dunbar program overdue for revenge and enjoying every second of it.
Elise Ellison-Coons led all scorers with 19 points for PLD, which returned all five starters from a team that reached the 11th Region semifinals after giving away a double-digit, second-half lead against SC during the regular season.
“We're six months behind,” SC coach Steve Helton said. “At this point in the season, it's going to be like AAU. Whoever has the best team getting off the bus is going to win.”
SC struggled similarly on Wednesday night in a 64-34 loss at George Rogers Clark.
Emma Price scored 10 of her team-high 12 in the first four minutes of the Dunbar contest to give SC its only lead of the night at 12-11, but a barrage of 3-pointers sent Dunbar on its way.
Ellison-Coons, Aziah Campbell, Carley Hinshaw and Tanaya Cecil each connected twice from beyond the arc. Quinn Arnold also dialed long distance for Dunbar, which was 9-for-20 from afar.
Kenady Tompkins tallied 10 points and five rebounds for the Lady Cards, 11th Region finalists in each of the past three seasons, winning twice. Tompkins and Price were starters for last year's squad, which graduated a pair of Division I players in Malea Williams and Morgan DeFoor.
Before that, the Lady Cards featured Maaliya Owens and Peyton Riddle for what felt like forever. Between the personnel turnover, the split into two high schools and the COVID-19 challenges, SC simply wasn't at that customary level in game one of delayed 2021.
“We need practice, and we need time, and we don't have it,” Helton said. “We're out of shape. We're struggling at the guard position. We're struggling all over. We can say a lot of what-ifs, but we've got to improve, and hopefully we’ll improve from here.”
Of all the daunting numbers, Scott County's 44 shot attempts stood out to the coach who makes no bones about his high-octane preferences. The Lady Cards hit only 13 of those, a 29.5 percent clip.
“We didn't quit. We had some runs. We had, what, 44 shot attempts? We've had 44 shots in a half,” Helton said. “I looked up early in the fourth quarter and we had 30 points. I mean, we've scored 30 points in six minutes.”
Maleiyah Moore sank a pair of threes and finished with eight points for the Cards to help keep the Bulldogs from growing its margin in the second half.
Helton will ask much of his most experienced remaining player. The six-foot Tompkins actually took turns at point guard as the game progressed.
“We're searching. To be continued. I definitely think we're better than we played,” Helton said. “You could tell nobody stood out. We didn't have a floor general at all. We played KT at all five positions, and she's not ready for that.”
Dunbar had lost seven straight games to Scott County since a win in a 2013 Christmas tournament, Only last year's 50-49 thriller in Lexington was close in that stretch.
GRC bounced back from an opening loss to Paris at SC’s expense. Clark’s Cardinals ripped open a 28-20 halftime lead with the help of 37 Scott County turnovers on the night, far and away the most in recent memory.
Price again led the Lady Cards with 15 points. Tyra Young provided six off the bench. Tompkins was held to two points but produced team highs of 12 rebounds and five assists.
SC also will be on the road Friday against last year's region champ and this year's favorite, Franklin County.
There will be few soft spots on the schedule and no rivals feeling even a little sorry for the Lady Cards, who were 93-12 over the past three seasons.
“We're going to have to do this thing on the fly, and it ain't gonna be easy,” Helton said.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.