New Cath Outlasts Holmes 58-52
Newport Central Catholic overcame a tough defensive effort by Holmes to outlast the Bulldogs, 58-52, in the nightcap at The Bank of Kentucky Center on Friday.
New Cath had become so used to blowing teams out that it seemed at one point that they were surprised that Holmes was going to give them a fight after taking an early 17-8 lead. Typically a very careful and composed team, the Thoroughbreds looked a bit out of sorts committing 11 first half turnovers. Much of this was from the pressure the Holmes guards applied.
“We didn't do a very good job taking care of the ball,” New Cath head coach Ron Dawn said after the game. “A lot of them weren't even forced turnovers. We're just coming down and throwing 50 foot passes and not taking care of the ball in transition. They doubled down a couple of times and we have to get it out of there before the trap comes, but yeah I was really disappointed with the way we handled the ball. Way too many turnovers.”
The dynamic of the game was changed even before tip off as Holmes senior center Rod Avery was not among the starters for the Bulldogs and did not play in the game. The NCC frontcourt tandem of senior Drew McDonald and junior Ben Weyer had to have been relieved not to see Avery on the court.
“He's definitely a big influence not only offensively but defensively,” Drew McDonald said of Avery. “He alters a lot of shots. He's good on the glass .He's an offensive threat. We just played the players they had out there. They sent theirs out, we sent ours out and our five was better tonight.”
Holmes came into their game led mostly by the trio of talented guards in senior James Bolden and juniors Markel McClendon and Marcus Mullins. The first half was no different as the three led the team in scoring with their star Bolden topping them off at 11 at the break. Early on it looked Bolden was forcing his shots and the whole offense ignored passing all that much. It became a game of whoever was passed the ball after crossing midcourt would go on to shoot. The strategy may not have been what Coach Mike Listerman would like his team to rely on, but after a few shots, Bolden did start to heat up with step-back three-pointers and left-handed floaters.
On the defensive end, the guards pressured the parameter of the New Cath attack and found by pressuring them, they could squeeze steals out of the NCC ball handlers. Before the teams went to their locker rooms, they had forced nine steals and converted many of those into transition points. Both Mullins and McClendon became beneficiaries of all the thefts, with Mullins cashing in eight points and McClendon finishing with six at the half.
“They have a lot of quickness and we knew it would take a little time to adjust. We haven't seen anybody like that in a while, but I thought in the second half we got better,” coach Dawn said.
In the second half, NCC settled themselves down and cut back on the turnovers and steals. They slowed the game down some by working their half court offense and finding quality shots. They went 10-16 from the floor after halftime with Ben Weyer displaying a wide variety of ways he can score. He shot from the outside, posted up his man on turnaround jumpers and crashed the boards for putbacks. He led the Breds on the night with 18 points. Senior guard Zack Pangallo had 16 and McDonald settled for nine which is well below his average.
“Everyone on our team can score so we just work the ball around and get good looks and tonight was Zach and Ben's night, it wasn't my night,” McDonald said. “Whoever has the best shot is going to take it. We got the win and that's all that matters.”
The size of the Thoroughbreds certainly ended up taking its toll in the end with New Cath outrebounding Holmes 30-18 with McDonald and Weyer combining for 19 of those.
“We thought we had an advantage there. They did a pretty good job of doubling down on Drew and we knew they were going to do that. Finally we had a stretch there in the second half where we were able to get it in there fairly consistently and got some good shots.”
That stretch helped keep a scrappy Holmes team just enough at bay to push the New Cath lead to nine and when Weyer found Erik Anderson on a backdoor-cut layup, it extended the lead to double-digits and essentially sealed the deal.
Bolden led all scorers with 20 points but missed a bevy of shots late in the game in crunch time. Mullins and McClendon added 10 points each, but also faded late in the game, possibly from fatigue. The Bulldogs only had three assists in the game and never really shared the basketball very effectively throughout the evening.
New Cath (25-3) concluded the evening as perhaps the strongest team in the region, in the midst of a 14-game winning streak.
“One of our goals is to win the region and get down there to Lexington and we feel that we have as good of a shot as anybody,” Coach Dawn said. “There's five or six teams in this region that can win it and we feel that we are certainly one of them, so that's what we're shooting for.”
The good feeling they have in beating Holmes, however, needs to be short-lived because Louisville Trinity and their 6'10'' center Ray Spalding come to the hill to play NCC at home next Tuesday. New Cath beat Trinity in Louisville last season.
“Spalding will be the best kid that Drew has played all year for sure. He might not play anybody that good next year. He's a big-time player,” Dawn said. “If we don't execute better than what we did tonight, we won't even be in the game at halftime. I don't know if they are as quick as Holmes but they are much bigger. We'll have our hands full for sure."
“Trinity is a great team. They are really well defensively. I've played with and against Ray this summer and I got to learn some of his game,” McDonald said. “We have two bigs with me and Ben, and so they're going to have match up with us too.”
McDonald became New Cath's all-time rebounder with over 940 in his career in the win over Holmes.
“It's definitely an honor. There has been great big guys to come through here,” said McDonald of his record. “This record has stood for 44 years so it's just a great feeling to make my mark on New Cath history.”
- Story by Bryan Burke, associate editor/ Photos by Brian Frey, RCN photgrapher