There's no shortage of people in the world who would love to clear the slate of everything that has transpired since March 2020, and there's no secret that the Scott County boys' basketball program is high on that list.
Coming off an unforgettable run to an unprecedented fourth consecutive 11th Region championship, SC's starts and stops in an already COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign exacted a steep toll.
Even with a six-game winning streak stretched out over more than a month, the Cardinals (8-11) stumbled to their first sub-,500 season in ages. That title reign hit a concrete wall with a 71-54 loss to Henry Clay in the 42nd District semifinals.
All but two players return, healthy, hungry and highly motivated.
“Not just hungry, but hungry to work,” SC coach Tim Glenn said. “The kids all have been hungry to work. Last year, you almost throw it out, because we missed over 30-some-odd days of a short season anyway.”
After back-to-back district wins at home over Sayre and Bryan Station, SC dropped six of its final seven games to close out a season wracked by illness and injuries. Several nights, the Cardinals took the floor with five starters and only one or two available varsity substitutes.
Few teams in the state missed the game — and the level at which their program is accustomed to playing it — as much as the Cardinals.
“We've been having two-hour deals (at practice), and they're wringing wet right form the get-go,” Glenn said. “It's exciting. I really like what we've got. You take a group of kids that will come in and work hard, and they enjoy working hard, and I'm excited for what we can do.”
Seniors Jeremy Hamilton (7.4 points, 5.8 rebounds per game), Isaiah Haynes (11.5 ppg) and Andrew Willhite and juniors Nick Mosby (10.9 ppg), Micah Glenn and JZ Middleton all saw time in last season's starting lineup.
All three juniors reclassified to graduate in 2023 under Senate Bill 128, which gives players who were in high school during the pandemic the option for a hardship year of athletics and academics.
Mosby, Haynes, Glenn and Middleton combined to hit 80 3-pointers last winter.
“We're going to have five guys on the floor who can shoot it anywhere from this side of that gray line (half-court), and I'm good with it if they're open and it's a good shot,” Glenn said.
Hamilton, a three-sport standout with Division I football scholarship offers from Cincinnati and Eastern Kentucky, will be the enforcer in the paint at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds.
He'll get some help from Mosby in the regular rotation and sophomores Larmarion McGrapth and Eli Moody off the bench, all checking in at a wiry 6-4.
Compared to many teams on the schedule, the Cards will face a disadvantage in the paint, although it's not one that worries Glenn.
“Not a ton of size, but sometimes you go by the heart size, and we do have some kids that play really hard,” the coach said. “These kids really like one another. They're good kids, and man, they play hard. We've got a couple that will make a hole in the wall if that's what it takes to win.
“Jeremy's not big either, but he plays about like he's 6-6. We're going to be measured more on the size of heart than our stature, but the way we shoot the ball is not going to hurt.”
Perhaps lost in the shuffle after the run at regions in 2020 and the abbreviated encore in '21, Scott County's current varsity nucleus won the 11th Region JV tournament two years ago.
And before sickness set in last winter, SC lost to eventual region champ Madison Central by only two points on the road.
“There's some chemistry,” Glenn said. “These kids, the seniors, and of course you've got some that have repeated, but this group as sophomores won that tournament and did it with the guys they have now.”
SC's not-so-distant success against Bryan Station, Tates Creek and Lexington Catholic in the showcase two years also connects to the current group.
“I think that matters, because we can refer back to some of those things,” Glenn said. “That was special. We had to make a lot of strides as a group that year, and some of those kids played. Micah early on played some quality minutes. Jeremy, of course, was sixth man on a team that won the region. Isaiah was playing big-time minutes. Nick was playing varsity minutes and then got hurt in a JV game after working his way to a sixth or seventh spot. So these kids have contributed. And they had a little run last year with the work that we were able to put in.”
Scott County won't back down from its customary challenging slate. Out-of-district foes include Lexington Catholic, George Rogers Clark, North Laurel, Butler, Collins and Great Crossing.
Offense should take a giant leap forward, but when things were going well last season, defense was the calling card. SC gave up more than 60 points in only one of its wins and held Great Crossing, Bourbon County and Franklin County all below 50.
“I called and talked to Coach (Billy) Hicks the other day,” Glenn said. “We are so far beyond defensively what we've been the past two years, and I would say even compared to some of the good teams we had three or four years ago. At practice, we've been hard on guys to even get the ball down the floor.”
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Scott County schedule
(subject to change; home unless noted)
30 East Jessamine, 7:30 p.m.
4 vs. Greenwood at LCA, 2:45 p.m.
7 Harrison County, 7:30 p.m.
8-11 Toyota Classic, TBA
14 Frederick Douglass, 7:30 p.m.
17 at Bryan Station, 7:30 p.m.
21 Lewis County, 7:30 p.m.
23 at Collins, 2:30 p.m.
28-30 at Campbellsville Classic, TBA
4 Bourbon County, 7:30 p.m.
7 Henry Clay, 7:30 p.m.
10 at Woodford County, 7:30 p.m.
11 Madison Central, 7:30 p.m.
14 at Frederick Douglass, 7:30 p.m.
18 at Grant County, 7:30 p.m.
19 Bryan Station, 7:30 p.m.
22 North Laurel, 7:30 p.m.
24 at Sayre, 7:30 p.m.
26 Great Crossing, 7:30 p.m.
28 at Henry Clay, 7:30 p.m.
31 Western Hills, 7:30 p.m.
3 at Lexington Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
10 Franklin County, 7:30 p.m.
12 Sayre, 7:30 p.m.
15 Mason County, 7 p.m.
17 George Rogers Clark, 7:30 p.m.
15 Tates Creek, 8 p.m.
17 at Oldham County, 7:30 p.m.
21-25 42nd District at Bryan Station
28 11th Region at higher seeds
1-7 11th Region at EKU
16-20 KHSAA Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena
Scott County Cardinals
1 Andrew Willhite, 5-9 senior G
2 Larmarion McGrapth, 6-4 sophomore F
3 JZ Middleton, 5-8 junior G
5 Noah Gallagher, 6-3 sophomore G
10 Isaiah Haynes, 6-2 senior F
11 Nick Mosby, 6-4 junior F
12 Micah Glenn, 6-1 junior G
14 Christian Everly, 6-1 junior G
15 Eli Moody, 6-4 sophomore F
22 Quade Miles, 5-9 sophomore G
23 Jeremy Hamilton, 6-3 senior F
24 Tristan Christopher, 5-9 freshman G
32 Robby Gindling, 6-0 junior G
33 Bryson Tackett, 6-0 junior F
3 Tayquan Elzy, sophomore
10 Isaac York, freshman
11 Ellis Huguely, sophomore
14 Harrison Owens, sophomore
22 Blake Tisheaur, sophomore
23 Jacob York, junior
24 Danny Armstrong, sophomore
32 Cameron Duncan, junior
33 Paul Garner, sophomore
43 Malachi McGuffey, sophomore
45 Levi Johnson, sophomore
1 Dignan Cole, freshman
2 Jack Willhite, freshman
3 Jayden Fields, freshman
10 Zay White, freshman
11 Ray Bryant, freshman
12 Ben Glenn, freshman
14 Blake MacCallum, freshman
15 Andrew Hickey, freshman
22 Colton Helton, seventh grade
23 Kamari Williams, freshman
32 Preston Luckett, freshman
33 Dylan Fee, freshman
45 Bradley Horn, freshman
Varsity coach: Tim Glenn
JV coach: Landry Woods
Frosh coach: Jalen Menefee
Assistant coaches: Chris Willhite, Ryan Walker, Tom Hendrix
Student coach: Wyatt Holbrook
Managers: Noah Gibson, Bryson Reynolds, Jacob Eads, Conner Willhite
Bookkeeper: Jerry Nettles
Clock: Rob Bruin
Stats: Tom Hendrix
Announcer: Bill Holland
Trainer: Dan Volpe
Equipment manager: Wade Calvert
Principal: Elizabeth Gabehart
Athletic Director: Steve Helton