NewCath Continues to Roll, Beats Conner 73-54
The size advantage for Newport Central Catholic was evident from the start, as the Thoroughbreds were simply too big for Conner and coasted easily to a 73-54 home win in their regular-season finale.
NewCath (26-3) has height to spare, but what makes this team so dangerous is that their big men are supremely skilled and adequately mobile. Forward Jake Schulte, 6'5'', stood above the rest in more ways than one as he tied a team-high, 19 points. The veteran senior was a shot-blocking force, an inside scoring presence and an effective transitional player on both ends of the floor on Thursday night. His front-court mate, Drew McDonald, 6'7'', not only added even more size against a much smaller Conner squad, but also showed a nice shooting touch from as deep as 18 feet. At one stretch in the first half, it seemed like every shot Conner attempted was blocked, and NewCath had at least five in the first half.
Conner (10-13) came out in a 2-3 zone and early on was able to disrupt NewCath's high-low offense. This forced NewCath to shoot threes and ignore their immense size advantage inside. The Thoroughbreds didn't start very hot from the outside, though, and this led Conner to score on fast breaks from defensive rebounds, At the end of the first quarter, Conner had the lead 18-16 and looked to be challengers in the early going.
Conner's philosophy was to keep the game up-tempo and allow their shorter players to at least find a speed advantage among the trees of NewCath. This seemed to be effective, but midway through the second quarter, NewCath had slowed the pace of action, knocked down consecutive threes, gained the lead for the first time and created a physical and contentious contest. Both coaches began to lay into the referees as the officials were forced to call many fouls in response to the increase of aggressive defense by both teams.
By the third quarter, NewCath had figured out how to completely dismantle the Conner zone defense as they lobbed it inside for easy hoops, rotated the ball around the parameter for open three-pointers in the corners, and drove it to the hoop off of the dribble for quick dishes to their big men. Conner complicated the issue further with sloppy ball-handling that resulted in two consecutive turnovers at mid-court coming out of halftime.
Near the end of the third, Conner senior forward, Samuel Hemmerich, showed an affinity for the jump-stop and gave his club a brief and fleeting chance with some impressive drives and finishes. His coaches encouraged him to keep at it, and while he was able to get to the rim well, the finishing touch had left him and he missed too many important baskets down the stretch. He still finished with 14 points.
Meanwhile, NewCath kept up the scoring and distanced themselves far enough to play a casual and worry-free fourth quarter in their season finale.
Written by Bryan Burke, RCN contributor