Scott County was a different boys’ basketball team playing in a different atmosphere Tuesday night than it was 10 days ago in its initial exhibition.
After taking a quarter to get acclimated, the Cardinals also clawed out a different result. SC stormed back from an early eight-point deficit to pull away from Mason County for a 61-50 victory.
Football season ended between the two scrimmages, giving the Cardinals a new look when Mikaleb Coffey, Micah McClave, Philip Garner, Silas Emongo, Jeremy Hamilton and Andrew Willhite joined the team for practice Sunday. Projected starter Aaron Leake also has been out for a family vacation, so game preparation wasn’t consistent as it will be down the long road this winter.
“Coach (Landry) Woods made the comment as we were walking in, ‘Well, at times, that’s how we practiced this week.’ It wasn’t that it was a distraction, but when you’re getting the new guys and trying to acclimate everybody together, it takes some time,” SC head coach Tim Glenn said.
Offense and defense are indelibly linked in the Cardinals’ system, and both were streaky against the visiting Royals.
Terrin Hamilton scored 14 of his team-high 17 points in the second half, punctuated by a tomahawk dunk from the right baseline in the closing seconds.
“I had a rough start,” said Hamilton, a 6-foot-6 senior, and the only returnee with experience as an SC varsity starter. “The second half I came out more aggressive and started scoring a little better on the inside. The threes weren’t falling tonight.”
Leake checked in early from the Scott County bench. He landed seven of his 13 points during a third quarter that saw the Cards transform a 25-25 tie into a 45-38 advantage.
“We definitely got a slow start. We didn’t come out ready to play, but as we got into the game, we got more of a feel for it,” Leake said.
Mason County kept it close all night thanks to the inside-outside combination of Alex Schalck and Xylon Frey. Both finished with 22 points.
Schalck surprised the Cards with his shooting touch and mobility, and his size and strength caused them headaches on the glass. Hamilton’s seven boards were the high for SC, which grabbed only six offensive rebounds on the evening and 21 in all.
“That was my biggest disappointment, but I also told them that is as good of a post as you might play all year,” Glenn said.
After Hamilton’s lone basket of the first half, a 3-pointer, gave SC an early 5-2 lead, Mason County answered with a 15-4 run that carried into the second period.
Six consecutive points from Leake and Chase Grigsby stemmed the tide. Grigsby found Leake for a backdoor layup before cashing in his own bucket off a steal to make it a two-point game.
“Our defense, we were trying to make that into offense out of steals and traps and get in the passing lanes,” Leake said. “(Schalck) was pretty good down there in the paint. We started off slow, because we didn’t expect him to be so big and coordinated.”
Coffey’s baseline drive for a basket preceded a tying 3-pointer by Micah Glenn at the 3:10 mark of the second period.
Isaiah Haynes and Elias Richardson combined to sink three of four free throws and put the Cards on top before Frye’s put-back pulled the Royals even at the half.
Pass-first instincts and aggressiveness from Coffey gave SC a boost that bodes well for the coming season.
“He’s probably got more varsity experience than anybody we’ve got, because he started at Tates Creek when he was a freshman,” Glenn said. “I think there are some (football) guys there that are going to help us for sure.”
Josh Bredwood buried two big shots in the pivotal third period, including a go-ahead 3-pointer out of the locker room. Hamilton hit another from downtown before delivering down low for a 33-27 lead.
After consecutive Frey buckets closed the margin back to two, Hamilton’s traditional 3-point play triggered a 10-0 run. Scott County scored 20 of the first 28 points out of the break.
Hamilton noted a change in the adrenaline rush for a typical exhibition crowd, compared to what the Cards saw at Butler on Nov. 9, where their game was the centerpiece of an all-day event.
“There were games going on before us and after us at Butler, plus it was their home court,” he said. “This was a different environment.”
SC showed plenty of energy in its finishing kick, though.
Richardson also warmed up from outside with a 3-pointer early in the fourth period. Schalck scored Mason County’s next seven to keep the Royals within that same number at 52-45, but Hamilton strung together a post-up and a fast break cash-in from Coffey to put it out of reach.
“I said, ‘I hate to pick on anybody, but how many of you missed a shot right at the goal?’ Hands went up,” Glenn said. “That’s OK, we can live with that, as long as you keep playing defense, but we had lapses defensively.
“The third quarter down at Butler hit us hard. We played really good in that first half, and this game here, third quarter was the best.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.