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Scott County holds off Anderson challenge

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By John Herndon

MOUNT STERLING – Top-ranked Scott County took the championship of the second annual Gateway Holiday Classic with a 64-49 victory over Anderson County at Montgomery County High School on Monday night.

But the Cardinals were in a battle to the end.

The final score does not indicate how close the battle really was.

While Scott took the lead for good with a 6-0 spurt to end the first half, the Cardinals did not clinch things until the final two minutes.

“I told the kids I was very proud of the effort tonight but we still had some mental lapses,” said Anderson coach Glen Drury.

Trailing 53-47, Anderson had a pair of chances to get closer but suffered a turnover and a missed shot. Scott’s Chad Jackson grabbed an offensive rebound and converted as he was falling to the floor with 2:00 to play.

Anderson was never closer.

“This was not a 15-point game,” said Scott County coach Billy Hicks. “Anderson is very well coached and a very tough team to play. They get after you on defense and they pass the ball so well.”

C.J. Penny led Anderson with 15 points while Kentucky commitment Dakotah Euton paced Scott with 16 points.

Yet, Penny suffered through a night when he hit just five of 19 shots from the field. “Again, a lot of that was Scott County’s defense,” Drury said. “They have so much size underneath and were able to affect C.J. and Jacob (Russell). We could not get the ball to them as we wanted.”

Penny and Russell, who had been averaging a combined 40 points a game, were limited to 26 as Euton and Richie Phares, both 6-foot-8, disrupted Anderson’s attack.

Penny, however, showed what a warrior he is, grabbing 17 rebounds.

Anderson suffered a blow when Will Ruggles went to the bench with foul trouble midway through the second quarter. “We weren’t able to run our offense like we wanted with Will out.”

Anderson did get a nice floor game from junior guard Allen Warford, who Drury said put together his best floor game of the year. Warford got free on a runout that pulled Anderson within 44-37 at the end of the third quarter.

Anderson had gotten a break even before the tipoff as Russell sank a technical foul shot called when Scott County’s Richie Phares dunked too late in warmups.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Landon Jenkins and Russell gave the Bearcats a 7-2 lead but the top-ranked Cardinals’ depth and high-level talent began to show.

Anderson, normally a good shooting team, hit just 32 percent from the field and committed 20 turnovers as Scott’s size and depth fatigued the Bearcats.

“Give Scott County a lot of credit for that,” Drury said. “They had the size, they have the quickness and they have so much depth. You can’t simulate that in practice.

“We tried to rest some in the 2-3 zone but they hit some threes.”

Jenkins, who made the all-tournament team along with Penny, kept Anderson close with his 3-point bombing. His home run with 2:39 to play drew Anderson within 53-47 and had the Anderson faithful hoping for an upset.

But Jackson’s off-balance shot put the Cardinals on an 11-2 spurt to end the game.

The contest pitted the Bearcats and Cardinals for the first time since Scott had been moved from the Eighth Region prior to the 2005-06 system. Both coaches said it was a bit like old times. “Glen still coaches the same way,” Hicks said. “His teams are going to play great defense and they are going to play very hard.”

Drury said Scott was also very similar to the Cardinals of yesterday. “They run that same system,” Drury said. “They have more size than they have had, but they do the same things.”

And Drury is hoping that seeing a team like Scott will only help his club in March. “The schedule is set up to make us better,” he said. “It is a challenge to see how good we can get.”

Monday night, that was very good, but not good enough to knock off off the state’s best.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com