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At NKU, Cov Cath Beats #1 New Cath; Holmes, Scott Prevail

Covington Catholic upsets #1 Newport Central Catholic

Not unlike last year, Covington Catholic (12-4) controlled Newport Central Catholic (11-3) on the defensive end and beat the top-ranked team in the region, 58-48, in front of a good crowd at The Bank of Kentucky Center in the nightcap of the Bluegrass-Buckeye Charity Classic.

There was a lot of speculation about the matchup between Cov Cath senior forward Bo Schuh and Newport Central Catholic forward Ben Weyer, but the fun was taken away when each player was tethered to the bench for the majority of the first half with two fouls each.

With no Schuh available, the Colonels became even smaller than usual and the lack of size allowed New Cath senior Drew McDonald enough space inside to rack up nine points and keep the Thoroughbreds in the game after falling behind 9-1 out of the gates. Head coach Ron Dawn found additional scoring from forward Erik Anderson who has continued to be an increasingly vital piece to the New Cath scheme. Anderson made all three of this shots from beyond the arc.

On the Colonels side, the team was lifted by forward Andy Flood who showed both inside and outside scoring ability racking up nine points himself in the first half and taking the heat off of Schuh and the other key players to do all the scoring.

“Andy has had his ups and downs this year, but he really played a really solid game tonight,” Colonels head coach Scott Ruthsatz said about Flood.

Flood was assisted by senior point guard Cooper Theobald who looked to run in the open court when he got the ball and use his deceptive length around the rim. Theobald had eight points by halftime and helped keep the pace of the game at a higher clip for Ruthsatz who said before the game that he would like to see his team get out and run rather than remain stagnant in a half-court game.

At halftime, the Colonels found themselves up 30-25 even with their best frontcourt player extremely limited with foul trouble and a turned ankle.

After halftime, McDonald began to assert himself on the glass as he racked up four quick offensive rebounds in his first three trips down the court to go along with a few easy baskets inside. McDonald has committed to play at NKU next season and will play his home games on the same floor, and he looked more comfortable playing there than he did last year when Cov Cath beat NCC in the semifinals of the Ninth Region Tournament. McDonald finished with a game-high 18 points on the evening. Once his teammates Ben Weyer and bench shooter John Ludwig converted from deep midway through the third quarter, the Breds earned their first lead of the game, and their sizable following at the game cheered on their support of a 40-39 lead.

With New Cath gaining all the momentum and Schuh continuing to rack up fouls, the Colonels found their backs to the wall. Remember, though, this team has exceeded expectations and overcome long odds to win big games in the past and they were not about to wither in this one. Cole VonHandorf who had been relatively quiet and not quite sharp on his midrange jump-shooting, took the ball right at McDonald under the rim and converted on a sweet left hand finish off of the glass. VonHandorf would later lead his team with 17 points, including some dagger free throws in the games waning minutes.

With VonHandorf more active mixed with a cramping starting point guard, Zach Pangallo who was forced from the second half as result, was enough to tip the scales back the Colonels' way thanks to three steals by Cov Cath.

“It was our game plan to pressure, I didn't think we did a good enough job in the first half, I thought we did a better job in the second half with switching,” Ruthsatz said of his team's defense. “We didn't worry about matchups necessarily in the backcourt. We just pressure and kind of wear them down and we rotated guys early in the first half.”

They used those turnovers to convert six points and propelled themselves back into the lead. The last bucket in the stretch came when Theobald drove fearlessly to the hoop and was fouled hard, hit the deck painfully, but converted the shot. Already an intense player, Theobald stood up aggressively and pushed a nearby Thoroughbred. He was called for a technical with this team up 48-43 in the fourth quarter.

“It's his competitiveness,” Ruthsatz said about Theobald and his technical. “He's really competitive. You have to understand what he had to go through last year with the ups and downs of a junior year. To play behind Nick Ruthsatz last year, he got beat up quite a bit and he had a really mental year last year. Now he's just laying it all on the line. It's his senior year and thinking 'I'm the starting point guard, I'm leaving it all out there.'”

It was a moment for New Cath to stay in the game and compete until the end, but McDonald missed both the extra free-throws, followed by another Cov Cath steal. Once Andy Flood finished on a nice take to the rim, the Colonels opened up their lead even further in the midst of a 12-4 run.

In all, New Cath finished with only five total points in the last period.

Once VonHandorf made four late free-throws, the game was won with the Colonels victors of the Breds yet again. Cov Cath has no time to rest and enjoy their victory, however, as they host Ryle on Saturday night. For Newport Central Catholic, they begin the Ninth Region All-A Tournament against Villa Madonna at Bellevue High School on Monday night.

Scott Holds Off Campbell County

Scott pulled off an impressive win over Campbell County, 77-68, in the first of three games at The Bank of Kentucky Center on Friday night as part of the Bluegrass-Buckeye Charity Classic event.

Campbell County came into the game without their starting center and rebounding machine Matt Wilson who hurt his ankle in a blowout against Calvary Christian earlier in the week. Senior Craig Neltner took his place and the middle and responded nicely against the undersized Scott Eagles early on.

Neltner isn't the biggest guy—listed at 6'3'' tall—but his presence was felt immediately as he ended with eight first-quarter points and 14 for the half. Many of his points came on offensive rebounds where he simply towered over the smaller Eagles. Some of his interior dominance came from his size, but there were also a few examples of bad boxing out for Scott who allowed Neltner to collect 14 rebounds, seven of them offensive. One particularly egregious example came on a Camel missed free-throw where Neltner was the only one in the lane, easily grabbed the board and put in the easiest two one could ask for in the paint.

Scott countered their rebounding woes by aggressively pushing the pace. Each time the possessed the ball they looked to get the ball out quickly on outlet passes. Sophomore shooting Jake Ohmer was held to only two points, far below his impressive average, but he did a nice job passing the ball down court and showed nice court vision as he pushed the ball in transition.

The Eagles found their scoring in the form of senior guard Andrew Trame who knocked down multiple three-pointers in the first half on his way to 14 points at halftime.

In the second half, the tone of the game changed as the Camels began to play into the fast pace the Eagles prefer. Ohmer continued to share the ball and when he kicked it out to Blake Schneider on the break for an open three, the Ealges took the lead 44-41. Ohmer then started getting into the scoring act with a three of his own to extend the lead to six.

Deondre Jackson kept the Camels in the action with his long-striding drives to the basket and his nifty left-hand finishes. Jackson is a tall point guard with shooting skills and an excellent ability to change speeds when out on the break. His ball-controlling allowed Campbell County to compete well in a transitional style of game.

Both teams battled back and forth into the fourth quarter with Schneider showing up in big moments throughout the second half. While the game at times looked to get a little out of control at times, Schneider remained calm and found himself in the right spots consistently on offense and defense. Schneider ended with a game-high 28 points, most of which came after halftime. During a stretch in the fourth quarter, Schneider scored five points on six free-throws, keeping the limited momentum in Scott's favor.

Camels had two crucial turnovers in a row with under four minutes left with Jackson on the bench with four fouls. That allowed for four more Scott free-throws and extended the lead to seven points. Jackson then followed with a missed three-point attempt and Ohmer responded for the Eagles with a beautiful no-look bounce pass to Vinny Dumlao that made it a nine-point Eagles lead.

Campbell County continued to turn the ball over as Jackson was unable to catch a hot pass along the sideline for their third failed trip in a row. At that point of the game, with Scott up nine points with under two-minutes left, it was more than enough of a cushion to cruise to a meaningful win against a team in their district. Not having Wilson in the lineup certainly hurt the Camels on Friday night, but the second-half guard play of Schneider, Ohmer and Trame deserved the win. The Eagles are now (10-9) and host Silver Grove on January 24. Campbell County (13-6) also hosts Silver Grove in their next game scheduled for Tuesday.

Holmes Survives Cooper Test

Holmes was tested by a scrappy Cooper team in the middle game of the Bluegrass-Buckeye Charity Classic at The Bank of Kentucky Center, but were able to pull ahead in crunch time and go home winners for their tenth straight game.

Holmes (15-3) came out blazing, making their first five three pointers, including two rainbow shots from senior guard James Bolden, and took an early 16-1 lead where it appeared it might be a long night for Cooper, but the Bulldogs perhaps let their early success create a false sense of comfort because from that point on, the rim seemed to close for the Bulldogs and their shooting success quickly ran dry.

“We had an early lead because we defended and we relaxed and let them do whatever they wanted to do,” said Holmes head coach Mike Listerman. “They got some kids who can play.”

Cooper sophomore guard Sean McNeil took control of the game sinking a three, followed by a nice scoop shot under the rim that cut the Jaguars deficit to five. McNeil then hit another three to close the gap even further in the first quarter.

In the second, Bolden hit two straight baskets and looked to gain momentum again, but junior Cooper guard Trevor Rohlman scored on a three to give the Jaguars their first lead of the game. Once his team fell behind, Bolden forced a lot of shots, missing right and left and the rest of the team followed suit. Their interior defense fell to pieces as Cooper found a lot of easy maneuvering room underneath on the offensive end. The beefier Jaguars started to dominate the glass, both offensive and defensive. Colin Hathorn proved to be a load inside for Cooper and drew fouls often from his banging around on the inside.

Holmes seemed surprised to find themselves down 35-29 at halftime.

“I told them, by golly we've got to get down there and defend,” head coach Mike Listerman said of his halftime speech. “I talked a lot about defense at halftime and talked about moving the basketball offensively and finding the open man.”

In the third quarter, the Bulldogs got back in rhythm by pushing the ball upcourt pushing the pace of the game to fit their run-and-gun style and often found big man Rod Avery ahead of the Cooper defense on the break. Avery had a handful of easy transition baskets in the third quarter to help put Holmes back in the lead. In that stretch, Bolden found Avery for a dunk and then found guard Mark Mullins on an alley-oop for another. Holmes junior guard Markel McClendon ended the quarter with a three-pointer that put the Bulldogs back up, 48-43.

“I thought our kids did a great job of keeping their composure. We came out of halftime focused. We changed up and went to a three-quarters court trap, and I thought that changed the momentum of the game. It put them back on their heels and it gave us a little confidence,” Listerman said after the game. “That's one thing that this club has really been doing is that they have been very, very resilient. After the Henry Clay game, which was the first game of the year, this team has come together and they understand that they don't have to get everything back in two minutes time.”

In the fourth quarter, it was more of the same. Avery found more dunks from nice bounce passes from Bolden and McClendon hit another three. Bolden was fouled and made the shot on a nice left-hand runner and it seemed Cooper started wearing down from all of the running. When McClendon made two baskets on a fast break, and Bolden stole the ball at half court and finished with a strong jam, the game was won and winning streak continues.

“I don't know if great is the right word, but I think we're pretty good and I think we're getting better,” Listerman said. “We're not going to let this team rest on its laurels. We have five weeks left of the season and I think we are where we could be.”

Pretty scary scenario for the future opponents of the Holmes Bulldogs in 2015. Their next game is at Mason County on Tuesday.

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor