For a team that’s not even supposed to be in the tournament, Scott County (Ky.) is having quite an impact on the 32nd annual Beach Ball Classic at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
Scott County coach Billy Hicks got the call from tournament executive director John Rhodes after reigning Kentucky state champion Trinity High, which defeated Scott County in the state championship game, pulled out of the Beach Ball.
So Hicks and the Cardinals obliged, and they’ve won a pair of games to reach Saturday night’s semifinals, when they’ll face tournament favorite Whitney Young (Ill.).
After defeating Orem (Utah) in the first round Thursday, the Cardinals (10-2) defeated St. Rita of Cascia (Ill.) 71-60 in a quarterfinal Friday.
“I just didn’t think we belonged this year,” said Scott County coach Billy Hicks. “When John called me and said he needed us to come, I thought he was joking. … But we’re honored and proud to be here.”
The Cardinals have participated in seven Beach Ball Classics and reached the semifinals one other time, when they lost to eventual champion Bishop Gorman (Nev.) in 2009.
“Any game you win in the Beach Ball, you count yourself lucky because every win is hard to come by,” Hicks said. “It’s good to play in front of crowds, but every game I’ve ever played anybody down here has always been a battle.”
The Cardinals aren’t void of talent. Guards Quin Richardson, a 6-foot-1 senior, and Trent Gilbert, a 6-1 junior, are sharpshooters who can also penetrate and dish, and they came to play Friday night.
Richardson scored 29 points and added seven rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals while being knocked to the floor several times, and Gilbert contributed 23 points, eight assists, two steals an assist.
Scott County also received production from 6-1 senior guard Jalen Haddix, who scored 14 points. The three guards combined to shoot 19 for 34 from the field, including 5 of 11 from 3-point range.
In the game’s opening four minutes, Richardson hit two 3-pointers, Haddix hit a pair of jumpers and Gilbert hit a trey to give the Cardinals a quick 13-2 lead and they never trailed. St. Rita never pulled closer than four points after the opening, and the lead was as large as 18 points.
“We play team ball, and obviously we’ve got good guard play, and that will carry you a lot early in the season,” Hicks said. “Trent and Quin have to carry us. We’ll live with them or sink with them.”
Scott County won the consolation championship last year, rebounding from a
But the Cardinals are looking for more than consolation this week, and are enjoying the process that comes along with advancing in the tournament.
“I don’t think anyone was really expecting us to be there, and finally being there feels pretty good,” Richardson said. “It’s different playing at night. [Last year] we played at like 2 p.m. Hopefully we can just carry on to the next game and keep playing like we are. We’re starting to really come together as a team.”
The Cardinals were going to feature a skilled 6-9 player from Holland, but he was ruled ineligible for the season. Their remaining size – 6-foot-9 senior Jordan Tribble – is inexperienced and fouled out with 12:35 remaining in the game Friday.
But the Cardinals produced their points with a fast-pace that created layups and outside shots, and they managed match to the bigger St. Rita on the boards with 31.
“They just outplayed us in every aspect of the game,” St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare said. “We didn’t rebound the ball, we didn’t do everything we talked about doing. [Thursday] we executed a great game plan and today we didn’t execute any game plan. We had some kids that just didn’t come to play today for whatever reason.”
The Mustangs (8-3) last played in the Beach Ball two years ago, when they dropped their final two games after winning their opener.
Scott County’s two losses this year are to teams ranked in the top three in Kentucky.Halftime: