The Wayne County Cardinals opened play in the Sandestin Beach 
Blowout, on Friday December 27 at the Freeport (FL) HS Gym, against 
Sand Rock (AL).  The Cards entered with a 5-4 mark on the season, 
which included a four-game winning streak and were coming off a 39-34 
win over Garrard County, in the final round of the Arby's/KFC 
Classic, at McCreary Central High School, earlier in the week.  Sand 
Rock, out of Leesburg (AL), owned an impressive 12-3 record on the 
season and were coming off a 75-66 loss to Greenup County, in the 
Cherokee County Holiday Classic, in Alabama.  The contest marked the 
first ever meeting between the two schools and would mark the first 
of four teams from Alabama that Wayne County would face, over the 
next five days in the tournament.
    Thomas Spencer scored a game high 25 points with a team best 8 
rebounds, as the Cards grabbed a first half lead and made enough 
plays to claim a 58-55 opening round win.  The 6-4 155 lbs. senior 
forward finished 11 of 17 from the field, with a 3-pointer and marked 
on 2 of 4 free throw attempts, while fellow senior Bryson Tucker 
added 14 points with 5 boards.  Tucker connected on 4 of 5 field goal 
attempts, all from behind the 3-point arc and tallied on 2 of 2 from 
the charity stripe, as the winners improved to 6-4 on the season.
    "Thomas had a really nice game offensively and we also used him to 
defend their best post player as well, so overall a very nice start 
to the tournament.  Bryson was very solid and shot the ball extremely 
well, his best games typically come when he is guarded by their 
center and he can force them out on the floor more, which also makes 
him hard to guard. Chandler continues to do some good things off the 
bench and does such a nice job passing the basketball," said Wayne 
County head coach Rodney Woods.
    Senior reserve Chandler Humble tallied on 3 of 3 field goal attempts 
to post 6 points with 4 rebounds, while Mason Burchett made 2 of 7 
from the floor and 1 of 2 from the free throw line to total 6 points 
and 4 rebounds.  Reese Sexton battled thru a 2 of 10 shooting effort 
to tally 5 points with 4 boards, while Kameron Gehring marked on just 
1 of 8 field goal attempts for 2 points, but added a season high 10 
assists, as six different Cardinals etched the scoring column in the 
win.
    The Wildcats, which dropped to 12-4 on the season, placed two 
scorers in double figures, led by the 20 points, 4 assists and 3 
steals of Cade Ballenger.  Ballenger made 7 of 14 field goal 
attempts, which included 4 of 8 shooting from 3-point range and 2 of 
4 from the free throw line, while backcourt mate Garyn Sharpe added 
17 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists.  Sharpe was 7 of 11 from the 
floor and that included a perfect 3 of 3 clip from 3-point range to 
pace the Sand Rock attack.
    "We had several tapes on Sand Rock and the thing that impressed us 
the most was their ability to shoot the basketball.  They weren't 
overly athletic as a team, but their ability to shoot the basketball 
was a big factor, coupled with the fact we didn't shoot the ball very 
well.  A good win against a well-coached team," said Woods.
    Eli Bates tallied 5 points with a game high 9 rebounds, while Logan 
Wood chipped in with 6 points and 4 boards, as seven different Sand 
Rock players scored in the contest.
    Wayne County made three 3-pointers in the opening minutes and Thomas 
Spencer totaled 9 points in the first quarter, to offset the four 
different scorers for the Wildcats, as the Cards enjoyed a 17-10 lead.
    Sand Rock battled back in the second stanza and used the 7 points of 
Garyn Sharpe to answer the 8 points of Bryson Tucker, as the Wildcats 
closed the gap with a 15-12 clip, which left Wayne County with a 
29-25 halftime edge.
    The teams played on near-even terms in the third frame as Wayne 
County was led by the 8 points of Spencer, while the Wildcats 
responded with the four threes, led by the 6 points of Cade 
Ballenger, as a 17-16 tilt left the Wayne edge at 45-42, after 24-
minutes of action.
    Thomas Spencer added 7 more points down the stretch and the 
Cardinals battled to a 13-13 draw to end the game, which gave Wayne 
County a 58-55 opening round win.
    The Cards, which claimed a 30-28 rebounding edge, shot 23 of 52 
overall from the field for 44 percent and that included a 7 of 16 
clip from 3-point range for 44 percent.  The winners converted on 5 
of 12 free throw attempts for 42 percent and totaled 16 assists with 
6 steals, against 9 turnovers.
    Sand Rock countered with 21 of 44 shooting from the field for 48 
percent and that included an 8 of 16 mark from behind the 3-point 
line for 50 percent.
    The squad made 5 of 9 free throw attempts for 56 percent and tallied 
10 assists with 6 steals, against 12 turnovers.
    Up next for Wayne County was a quarterfinals matchup with Oneonta 
(AL), a 72-66 opening round winner over Montgomery Catholic.  Details 
on that matchup are in a related story inside this edition of The Outlook.

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