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Holy Cross Girls, New Cath Boys Claim All "A" Titles

It was Northern Kentucky domination in Frankfort on Sunday as Newport Central Catholic and Holy Cross claimed the boys and girls All "A" Classic titles.

New Cath 78, Monroe Co. 36

Newport Central Catholic won its third consecutive Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic by beating Monroe County in the championship game, 78-36, at the Frankfort Convention Center.

By and large, they rolled over their All “A” competition from the Ninth Regional tournament all the way throughout the state tournament. Outside of a close win against Lexington Christian in the semifinal game, they beat all the other seven opponents by at least 30 points.

“I didn't think it would be like this today,” New Cath head coach Ron Dawn said after the win. “I knew last night would be tough, but I really anticipated today being a tough game, but we played about as well as we could play.”

New Cath has won nine straight games since losing to Covington Catholic in the Bluegrass-Buckeye Charity Classic almost three weeks ago. Coach Dawn said that his team regrouped after that loss and moved forward in resounding fashion.

“We were disappointed after we lost to Cov Cath. That Sunday night we practiced and we had the best practice we had all year. We knew that game wasn't our best effort, we give them a lot of credit, they're an outstanding team, and we told our kids then that there were things we had to get better at and they knew it. Everyday since then, we've been working towards that, getting better and getting tougher.”

The Breds came out looking to push the pace as senior guard Zack Pangallo hit multiple teammates in transition for easy baskets out of the gate. The Thoroughbred frontcourt of senior Drew McDonald and junior Ben Weyer which has posed so many problems for their opposition during this tournament, came out in typical fashion, finding quality inside looks in the post and in transition.

Pangallo racked up a whopping 10 assists in the first half alone by setting his teammates up for excellent chances underneath.

McDonald looked good early racking up quick seven points, but then had to come out with two fouls in the first quarter. Teammate Ben Weyer picked up the slack by dunking on fast breaks off of steals and knocking down jumpers from the baseline.

Weyer had 14 points in the first quarter and a half and propelled his team to 32-18 lead with under three minutes in the half. His ability to shoot the three, score in the post and run in transition makes him a hard player to guard. He finished the half with 19 points, including two makes from downtown, and ended the game with 26.

“Ben was fantastic, especially with Drew sitting the whole second quarter,” Coach Dawn said. “Ben just kind of took over, inside and out. He guarded their best player the whole game and did a great job on him, so unbelievable game by Ben.”

Monroe simply did not have the firepower to hang with Weyer and the rest of the Breds in the first half. They're best shooting option appeared to be forward Dillon Geralds who knocked down a pair of threes, but he could not make it consistently despite firing up plenty of shots. Geralds finished the half with 10 points on 2-6 from beyond the arc.

New Cath, on the other hand, continued their streak of a high shooting percentage, making 61 percent of their field goals and coasting to a sizable 39-23 halftime lead.

It has become evident throughout the All “A” Tournament that to beat the Breds, smaller teams must shoot nearly perfectly to get past them, and like so many other before them, they were unable to consistently find a shooting rhythm.

Zack Pangallo seems to always be in rhythm though, whether it's shooting, passing or defense and he came out of the half by scoring the first five points. Pangallo was named the All “A” Tournament MVP and finished the game with 12 points and 12 assists.

“He does so many things for us,” Dawn said about Pangallo. “He defends, he helps off the ball defensively, he's key against the press when they put pressure on us, and he get's the ball to people”

If it wasn't Pangallo from the outside, it was more McDonald and Weyer on the interior getting scoring opportunities and making the most of it. Weyer led all scores with 26 points, and McDonald followed up with 19. Both of them, along with Pangallo and Grant Moeves were named to the All “A” Tournament Team.

By midway through the third quarter, a three-peat for the Newport Central Catholic had become evident. Coach Dawn said he wasn't sure if he would call his team an All “A” dynasty, but said all things come to an end someday and that next year will be a little bit different.

With the All “A” out of the way, New Cath (20-3) returns to Northern Kentucky for a rematch at St. Henry who they pummeled in the Ninth Region All “A” final, 85-44, on January 24.

Holy Cross pulls off win in final seconds

Holy Cross won the Touchstone Energy Girls All “A” Tournament in dramatic fashion as center Ally Mayhaus scored on a lay-up with under five seconds to play that proved to seal the win for the Indians, 47-46, over Murray.

After the game, head coach Kes Murphy talked about his team's performance with tears of joy in his eyes.

“Our kids just fought and believed and I'm just proud of where we are. You think about the fact that a couple of years ago we weren't very good. I came in and our program was down, but these guys clawed and clawed and believed. They are coachable, they're good teammates, so this didn't happen this season. It's been a process,” Murphy explained.

Holy Cross did not shoot well in the first quarter, while Murray lit it up with Maddie Waldrop getting post baskets down low and Elizabeth Grogan shooting from the outside.

Waldrop ended with a game-high 18 points and 11 rebounds. Grogan was next on the team with 14 points including four three-pointers.

The Indians were, however, able to get a ton of offensive rebounds and score enough to hang around.The Mayhaus sisters, Cassie and Ally, are both tall, physical players underneath that proved to be hard to handle on the glass and in the post.

Ally Mayhaus ended up with nine points and 11 rebounds, while guard Deja Turner finished the game with a team high 14 points. 

The Murray defenders were forced to collapse down on them which allowed them to kick it out to open jump shooters. This approached, combined with the half court trap the Lady Tigers employed, allowed Deja Turner to find open jumpers on the baseline which she converted two of three during a crucial stretch in the second quarter that allowed the Indians to stay within striking distance.

It was still not enough, though, to ever take a lead in the first half. Waldrop continued to find ways to score underneath through the Mayhaus sisters and she got to the free-throw line often as a result. Had she made more of the free opportunities it would have provided even more of a cushion for her team, but as it were, the Lady Tigers finished the half only making half of their free throw attempts.

For Holy Cross, point guard Dajah McClendon proved to be the straw the stirred the drink for the Indians as she began to find more open driving lanes in the paint, which she either converted into baskets on sweet scoop shots, or found teammates down low on the block with the old drive-and-dish. She finished the half with six points and five rebounds. For Murray, Waldrop accounted for the most points with 11 by halftime and also had seven rebounds during the stretch.

The tide turned after halftime, thanks in large part to scrappy defensive play of the Indians who forced five steals in the quarter's first five minutes. Once they procured the ball on these steals, they translated nearly all of them into easy baskets, often simply by dribbling the ball past the defenders on their way down court.

“We were playing decent defense but we weren't disciplined. We were doing things outside of what we normally do and we weren't ourselves but we were only down two points. So I told our kids to be disciplined, execute our stuff and do what we do and eventually things are going to work out.”

With the defensive surge, the Indians were able to grab their first lead of the game and swelled it to eight points in the quarter, causing Murray to call two timeouts to settle down the Indians' momentum.

Murray then went into a half-court trap defense to put pressure on the Holy Cross guards, but HC handled it well and were patient with their passes and waited for quality looks. Dajah McClendon was a calming force among the Lady Tiger harassment as she continued to find open players when she drove to the hoop. It looked like perhaps the Holy Cross lead would be a comfortable one down the stretch, but Macey Turley sank a 35-foot buzzer-beating three at the end of the third to back within three.

The fourth quarter began and the excitement really started to ratchet up. With only four minutes left, the Lady Tigers had clawed back to within two when Waldrop tied the game with two free throws. The game stayed that way until the last minute when Turley made two free throws herself which gave her team a one-point lead down the stretch.

Things looked especially dubious for Coach Murphy when Ally Mayhaus was called for traveling with under 30 seconds to go and down by one. The Indians then fouled Grogan who swished both free throws to put Murray up by three.

The Lady Tigers decided to foul the Indians' Turner who made the front end of a one-and-one. Some may have suspected that Turner would then intentionally miss the second, but she made it, putting the Indians down a point with 12 seconds remaining.

What followed was the stuff that championship game legend is made of. Murray failed to get the ball in from the inbounds pass and turned the ball over under the Holy Cross basket, giving the Indians more than a glimmer of hope. The pass found its way to Ally Mayhaus on the block who shielded her defender with her body and scored on a pretty easy lay up off the glass.

“Ally who hadn't done anything all day decided to do something and thank God it worked out,” said head coach Kes Murphy. “What an awesome play. Ally has a whole lot of courage. We believe in her no matter what and we know eventually things pay off, which is what I've been preaching since day one.”

Murray's hurried three-point attempt on the other end at the buzzer came nowhere close and the Indians secured the All “A” Championship.

Stories and photos by Bryan Burke, associate editor