LEXINGTON -- Scott Hamilton prepared his Lexington team for nearly everything going into Friday night's battle against rival Mansfield Senior.
Everything, that is, except seeing senior star Cade Stover sitting on the bench a few feet away from him, forced from the game with four fouls and still 5:05 left to play.
Fortunately for Hamilton, his veteran team found a way to survive Stover's absence en route to a 53-39 Ohio Cardinal Conference victory.
"Everything we did in practice to prepare for Mansfield Senior ... none of it involved Stover being on the bench," Hamilton said with a smile.
"We had that nice lead (49-36 when Stover went out) and our guys played with confidence down the stretch. They did everything perfectly that we asked them to do," Hamilton said.
The loss snapped Mansfield Senior's nine-game winning streak and left both teams with just one loss in the OCC. The Tygers are now 9-2 overall and 5-1 in the league. The Minutemen, who have won eight of their last nine, are 9-3, 4-1.
DEFENSIVE STOPPERS: When Stover went to the bench, he took his game-high 18 points with him. The Minutemen scored just two points in his two minutes on the bench.
But the Tygers, who had trimmed a 17-point deficit to 13 at that point, managed just three points of their own. When Stover came back into the game with 3:03 left, the Minutemen still led, 50-39.
Mansfield Senior coach Marquis Sykes, whose team shot just 26 percent from the field (14-54), including missing 17 of 19 three-point attempts, said Stover's departure was a missed opportunity.
The 39 points was a season-low for Mansfield Senior.
"During that time period, we missed several makeable shots," Sykes said. "I remember looking at our coaches and thinking, it's just one of those nights where we struggled from the free throw line (9 of 17), we struggled from the field.
"Hats off to Lex, though. They executed their gameplan. They just shut us down," Sykes said. "Those stats speak for themselves."
Lexington focused its efforts on Tygers' senior guard Quan Hilory. Led by their own senior guard, Kyle Johnston, the Minutemen held Hilory to a season-low seven points on two-of-10 shooting (0-for-6 on treys).
No Tygers reached double figures in the game. Key to that defensive effort was keeping Mansfield Senior off the offensive glass, normally an area where the Tygers thrive. The Tygers had just 14 offensive rebounds, scoring just 12 second-chance points.
"(Johnston's) defense has been solid for us ever since game two or three," Hamilton said. "He has been our defensive guy on the perimeter and he knows it. Tonight was huge for his confidence. Even if he is not shooting the ball as well as he would like to, he knows he can play on the other end.
"We went with putting pressure on Hilory and I thought our guys did a much better job tonight than it looked in practice this week. To hold him to seven points was huge. He is a remarkable player," Hamilton said.
Sykes said it was combination of good Minutemen defense and poor Tygers' shooting.
"They played excellent defense. (But) we got some very good looks. They just didn't fall. It was a night where we couldn't put the ball in the basket. I thought out energy and effort was good and our attempt to execute the gameplan was solid," Sykes said.
STOVER ERUPTS: Lexington led just 24-21 at the half and Stover had just six points, including just one of five FG attempts.
But the 6-5 center took over in the second half, scoring 14 points, including five-of-seven FG attempts. Stover notched 10 points in the third quarter when Lexington outscored Mansfield Senior, 18-8.
But Stover was more interested in his team's defensive effort.
"That is what we preach is playing defense," he said. "The beginning of the season, we were losing games because we didn't play any defense. We know we can score, but when we hold a team like (Mansfield Senior) to 39 points, we won't lose to them."
Stover praised Johnston's efforts, in particular.
"(Hilory) is a great player, so we were really focused on him. Kyle did a great job and it's no coincidence that our opponent's best player usually has an off night when Kyle is playing defense on him," Stover said.
OCC GRIND: Sykes said any road game in the OCC is tough to win.
"It doesn't matter who the opponent is. We knew it would be a dogfight tonight. Our guys fought to the end and they are dead tired right now. I am proud of their effort. We will get (back) into the gym, get some shots up and we will get better," Sykes said.
Hamilton said falling two games behind the Tygers in the OCC would make it tough to challenge for the league title.
"When you consider the top three teams in the league right now, if you fall two games back, you are going to need a lot of help. We are happy to be where we are, but we're not done yet," Hamilton said.
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Stover led all players with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Senior Ben Vore added 11 points and senior Josh Aiello had seven points and nine rebounds.
Lexington shot just under 50 percent from the field (17-35), including six of 11 triples. The Minutemen were 13 of 22 from the foul line.
Hilory, Dontavious Burtin and Jakobe Reese each had seven points for Mansfield Senior. Reese led Mansfield Senior with seven rebounds.
Lexington had a 36-29 edge in rebounding and committed 16 turnovers, compared to seven for the Tygers.
UP NEXT: Both teams return to the court next Friday in OCC games. Mansfield Senior is at Madison and Lexington hosts Mount Vernon as the second half of the conference season begins.