Trent Gilbert had a game-high 25 points, Quin Richardson added 15 points, and Scott County (Ky.) rolled to a 57-44 win over Orem (Utah) in the opening round of the Beach Ball Classic on Thursday.
“I thought we played hard,” Cardinals coach Billy Hicks said. “We really contested their shooters and made them work for everything. Defensively we played good, we played a real solid game. We kept them from getting open looks and snagged enough rebounds to keep us in the game.
“I think we contested about every shot they took. They had a hard time getting open looks and I think that’s what it all came down to.”
Scott County started a little slow out of the gate but went on a 14-3 run with 4:03 left in the first half and closed the frame with a 26-14 advantage. The Cardinals opened the second half on an 11-5 run with 10:45 left, and the Tigers couldn’t keep up. Gilbert had seven points during that run.
“We had high hopes but this is an experience for us,” Orem coach Golden Holt said. “Traveling that far yesterday and we’re a better shooting team, that’s our strength – we can shoot the ball – but our shooting today turned into poor defense and turnovers so that’s not what we wanted to come here and do.”
Dalton Nixon had a team-high 12 points for Orem, and Jordan Darger and Cooper Holt had 10 points apiece.
“They’re a very good looking basketball team,” Hicks said of the Tigers. “They were just missing their shots that they usually hit. We were fortunate to beat them.”
Orem is ranked No. 3 in Utah, according to MaxPreps.com. The Tigers are the only team from Utah last season to beat Lone Peak, which was the runner-up and fan-favorite in the 2011 Beach Ball Classic.
Orem has lost only one other contest this season which came at the hands of Lone Peak on Dec. 8.
“We sure aren’t tough enough yet,” Holt said. “We have only played five games and had a summer of injuries so we didn’t get to play in the summer and that showed tonight.”
Meanwhile, the victorious Cardinals were coming off a 77-67 loss to Henry Clay (Ky.) on Dec. 22 and had high hopes of beating the Tigers.
“We were coming off a loss and we were real devastated,” said Gilbert, who also grabbed five rebounds. “We were determined to come out and get after this team. We heard they beat Lone Peak but we were ready to get after them and I thought our team defense was the key.”
Said Holt: “I thought [Scott County] was gritty and I thought they played harder than we did, which is pretty disappointing. I thought they wanted it and played harder than we did.”
After winning the consolation championship at the Beach Ball Classic last year, the Cardinals hope to make it as far as they can in the winner’s bracket.
“Hopefully we can just survive another game and get ready for another one,” Hicks said. “We’re definitely not the strongest team in here, especially athletically but we have a good bunch of kids that know how to play basketball. We’d love to win this thing some time but realistically that’s going to be a tough task for us.”
As for the Tigers?
Their prime purpose in the Beach Ball Classic is to improve their game. Orem will play Christ Presbyterian (Tenn.) at noon Friday.
“We came to get better,” Holt said. “Every time you play here you’re going to play somebody good. So we’re looking forward to trying to get better.”
Scott County will play St. Rita (Ill.) on Friday at 7 p.m.
“St. Rita is a tough team,” Hicks said. “It’s gonna be a tough game for us.”
Said Gilbert: “We didn’t really get to see them play much, but we’ll come out and hopefully everything will go for us.”
Scott County 26-14.3-point goals:
Orem 3 (Hunsaker, Holt, Nixon); Scott County 3 (Gilbert 3).Team fouls:
Orem 21, Scott County 15.Fouled out:
Peters, Darger, Tribble.Technical fouls: