LEXINGTON – For 16 minutes, things were looking pretty good from the Marshall County perspective.
The Marshals were taking the game to highly regarded Scott County, dictating the tempo and matching the Cardinals bump for bump in a hard-fought contest.
At intermission, they led 27-20.
But the second half belonged to the Cardinals.
All-state forward Isaiah Ivey led an offensive outburst in the third quarter that left Scott County ahead 41-34, and the Cardinals didn’t relent in the final eight minutes, finishing with a 59-43 victory in a first-round game of the boys’ Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena Thursday night.
“Marshall County’s got a heck of a basketball team,” Scott County coach Billy Hicks said. “They played as hard and physical as any team we played all year.”
In the first half, Hicks said, the Marshals “bbeat us about every way you can beat a basketball team. They really put us back on our heels.”
Scott County came out of the halftime break with a vengeance. A three-point basket by sophomore Trent Gilbert cut the lead to 27-23, and then after a pair of Marshal turnovers sandwiched around a missed three-pointer by Gilbert, Ivey rose to the occasion.
Ivey, a 6-3 guard, scored 13 points to lead the third-quarter surge. He, Gilbert and Quinn Richardson all hit three-point field goals during the period.
“There’s no doubt that Ivey stepped up the second half,” Marshals coach Gus Gillespie said. “I thought the jumper he hit the first half was contested. It was tough, it was a mid-range shot.
“But then he got going in the second half and when they took the lead and took control of the game, he hit some big shots for them.”
Ivey’s trey, at the 2;31 mark, put Scott County ahead at 35-34 and the Cardinals never trailed after that.
They ran the advantage to as much as 20 points before the finish.
Ivey had 19 points for the winners. Tamron Manning added 12.
Chase Clark led the Marshals with 13 points. Cole Nelson added 11.
“We are a physical team,” Gillespie said. “I just think they got loose and an all-stater [Ivey] made all-state plays. He hit tough shots.
“I thought at halftime, just watching our kids, I thought we were fresh. [In the third quarter] I thought we were getting a little bit frustrated. But you knew they were gonna come out and play well.”
The defeat ends the most successful season in school history for the Marshals, who finish with a 32-3 record.
Scott County improves to 33-4 and moves on to the quarterfinal round Friday night against the winner of Thursday’s final first-round game between John Hardin and Johnson Central.
The Marshals handcuffed the Cardinal offense in the first two quarters, limiting them to 34 percent shooting on eight of 23 field goals, including one of five from three-point range.
The Marshals, meanwhile, were disciplined on offense and hit nine of 16 shots for a 56 percent clip.
The numbers were effectively reversed in the second half, as Scott County was able to assert its offense and stifle the Marshals’ efforts to score.
“First half, I felt like we were playing at a pace that we wanted,” Gillespie said. “Felt like we were executing the game plan.
“The first play of the second half, 12 [Gilbert] came off a screen, [there was a] lack of communication, we didn’t switch, he hit the shot, cut it from seven to four. Then we had a turnover.
“Those things, you can’t have those kind of mistakes against a team like Scott.”
The early events turned the tide, Gillespie said.
“I felt like if it got over eight points, it could get ugly, because then they could spread the floor and really expose you and make plays. And that’s what happened,” he said.
“They threw a lot of different defenses at us,” said Nelson, who along with five fellow seniors wrapped up a standout career. “Switched up who was guarded who, and I think that bothered us a little bit. We couldn’t get in a rhythm.”
Clark noted that the Marshals’ patience in the first half netted them some baskets off the dribble.
“They were denying most of the first half, so we just went to the spread and pretty much one on one, and that’s how we got those shots,” he said.
“They’re a great team and they hit big shots when they needed it. They needed it in the second half and they rose up.”