GRC thwarts MoCo in Mt. Sterling; win with grit and style in Saturday matchups

Published 12:52 pm Monday, January 15, 2024

The George Rogers Clark Cardinals and Lady Cardinals basketball teams, each 17-1, have proven much to start their 2023-24 seasons.

While it wasn’t easy, they continued doing so during the second weekend of January.

In a rematch of the “War on I-64”, each team defeated Montgomery County (10-6) in Mt. Sterling on Friday, while both won tight games on Saturday as GRC Arena hosted the Martin Luther King Jr. Classic.

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“I really felt like Clark County showed up tonight,” said GRC head boys coach Josh Cook following the Cards’ victory against the Indians. “Our student section was great. Our fans were behind us, and our kids had a great effort tonight. They played their hearts out.”

In the first matchup, the Lady Cards took on the Lady Indians in a rematch that many feel pits the top two teams of the 10th Region against each other.

However, this night, the Lady Cards – led by 21 points from freshman guard Kennedy Stamper – took control early and established a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

With Khania Jones playing a significant role on offense by finishing with a double-double, including 13 points – two of which went in on the first half’s final play, the Lady Cards extended their lead to 22 at halftime.

Scoring 21 points of her own, Montgomery County senior and Youngstown State commit Hayden Barrier attempted to get the Lady Indians back into the game.

However, a balanced GRC offensive attack was too much to overcome, as the Lady Cards pulled away for a 76-39 victory.

“[We] definitely played as a team a lot [and] shared the ball,” said Stamper. “It’s very important that we crash the boards [and] get rebounds. That’s very vital in a game like this against some good competition.”

Next up, the Cards took to the floor against an energized Indians (team.

Facing a raucous home crowd, the Cards led by only two points at the end of the opening quarter.

Yet senior J.P. Gaines helped give the Cards momentum near the end of the first half.

Following a Montgomery County timeout, Gaines stole the inbound pass at midcourt and – with just seconds remaining – rushed to the basket and nailed down a shot to give the Cards a nine-point advantage at halftime.

Coming out of the locker room, the Cards extended their lead – led by 18 points from senior Breland Morrison – and walked away with a 72-48 victory.

“They play that 1-3-1, and [it] just leads some of those back guys open,” said Gaines. “Breland had some good rebounds [and] putbacks…we try to [find] the guy that’s open.”

One day later, as a part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Classic, GRC Arena played host to a variety of basketball games that featured high schools such as Central of Louisville, Paul G. Blazer of Ashland, Frederick Douglass, Notre Dame, North Laurel, and DuPont Manual.

Squaring up against Holy Cross High School of Covington (12-5), a formidable foe from the 9th Region, the Lady Cards struggled early, with Indians’ senior center Julia Hunt’s 17 points guiding the team to a 10-point, 51-41 lead at the end of the third quarter.

However, led by the efforts of Jailenn Green’s team-high 15 points and senior Makili Tabor scoring four of her six points in the fourth quarter, the Lady Cards tied the contest at 57.

With just 17 seconds remaining, the Lady Indians inbounded the ball, intending to take what would most likely be the final shot of the game.

However, with help from the tough defense by sophomore Teigh Yeast, Stamper saved the best for last by making a critical steal.

With the basketball being advanced up the court quickly, Yeast was fouled under the basket with only 2.4 seconds remaining.

She made both free throws and, following a defensive stop, the Lady Cards came away with a wild 59-57 victory.

For her critical role late in the contest, Yeast – who entered double figures with 11 points – was named Martin Luther King Jr. Classic MVP of the game.

“We started off slow, but played really good team ball…[We] never quit,” Yeast said. “Keeping [the opponent] to single-digit [scoring] quarters is one of our goals every game.”

“Holy Cross is a really good team. We knew that coming in,” said GRC head boys coach Robbie Graham. “Our kids just battled for 32 minutes. [We] got some big shots, got some big stops…they have that winning mentality.”

Immediately following the girls’ contest, the Cards took to the home court to take on Region 15’s Johnson Central Golden Eagles (7-6).

The Golden Eagles, led by an impressive 36 points from freshman Austin Slone, challenged the Cards’ defensive unit.

However, with the Cards having four players score in double figures – including 28 points from Reshaun Hampton and 20 from fellow senior Breland Morrison – the team came away with a 79-72 home victory.

Morrison, who scored eight of his twenty points in the fourth quarter as the Golden Eagles threatened to close the gap, was named MVP of the Martin Luther King Jr. Classic contest.

“It was a close game tonight, and I felt like we just stuck together played through it, and came out with a win,” Morrison said.

The Lady Cards traveled to Pickerington, OH, for an early 9:00 a.m. matchup against Niagara Prep of Ontario, Canada, on Monday, Jan. 15th, in the Classic in the City. The score was not available at press time.

The Cards play Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. against the Tates Creek Commodores (2-15) in Lexington.