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Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler� J.J. Hickson slam dunks over South Laurel� Trey Smith and Matt St. John.

By Les Dixon / Sports Editor

They came, they saw and they conquered.

Steve Wright’s South Laurel Cardinals weren’t any match for Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler Saturday in the Nissan on Nicholasville Shootout, as the Wildcats cruised past the Cardinals 83-63 behind North Carolina State recruit J.J. Hickson’s 27 points and 11 rebounds.

Wheeler jumped out to a 19-6 lead in the first quarter and never looked back as South Laurel could only get as close as 10 points the remainder of the game.

The loss signaled the Cardinals’ third loss in a row against a nationally ranked team.

“We’re trying to eat the elephant all at one time,” he said. “It’d be better if we spread them out more. But if we’re going to compete for a state championship we’ve got to be able to compete against teams like this.

“You know, other teams in the state might not have their (Wheeler) size, but team such as Scott County, Tates Creek and Bryan Station are just as athletic.”

Despite the 20-point loss, Wright said his team didn’t have anything to be ashamed of.

“These kids have had a lot of success, and a little humility doesn’t hurt anybody,” he said.

“This team is the biggest team we’ve played since I’ve been coaching here. I guess you could call it great scheduling. We’ve got to get someone who knows how to schedule better,” Wright joked.

As soon as the Wildcats won the tip to begin the game, it was apparent South Laurel was going to have trouble stopping Wheeler’s inside game.

But what Wright didn’t know was that his team was going to have to contend with the Wildcats’ outside shooting.

Wheeler connected on its first five 3-pointers of the game with Adrian Williams knocking down three of those putting the Cardinals on their heels defensively.

“We knew coming into the game that we were going to have to deal with their size, but after the Williams kid started hitting, that kind of changed things for us defensively,” Wright said.

“It kind of changed what we had planned to do,” he added. “The game before he didn’t hit much from the outside, but once he started hitting, we had to adjust.”

By the time Wright and the Cardinals made the proper adjustments, the damage had been done.

South Laurel trailed 40-25 at halftime, but held its own in the second half before being outscored, 43-38.

Notre Dame signee Ty Proffitt scored 15 of his team-best 21 points in the first half, while senior Jordan Hammonds scored all of his points (13) in the game’s finals 16 minutes. Trey Smith added 11 points in the loss.

“There are some good things we can take from this,” Wright said. “We did have some good stretches. The game never really got out of hand until we had to extend the defense.

“When you play teams like this, your margin of error is very small and we just made some mistakes,” he added. “We’ll regroup and learn from this.”

Wheeler finished the game shooting 34-of-59 from the floor and 8-of-18 from 3-point range, while South Laurel hit 24-of-52 shot attempts and 7-of-20 from 3-point territory.

The Cardinals will be back in action Tuesday on the road against 50th District rival Whitley County.

Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

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