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Cov Cath Claims 35th District Championship

Covington Catholic reclaimed the 35th District title after trouncing Holmes, 80-53, in the championship game on Friday night in front of a good crowd at Holmes High School. The Bulldogs won the District tournament last season by beating Cov Cath in the final game, so it was a bit of a revenge game.

“Our focus was to regroup. We had a little bit of time to really take a look at our last couple of games, and we're just trying to get better,” Cov Cath coach Scott Ruthsatz said after the game. “A late-season loss is not necessarily a bad thing, everybody went crazy when we lost to Dixie, but you got to get better. We watched a lot of film, we cut down on practice time on the floor and we saw what we weren't doing right. I think our guys were really mentally ready to play”

The Colonels jumped out to a quick 10-point lead in the first quarter thanks to senior forward Andy Flood catching fire out of the gates. Flood had three makes from behind the arc in the game's first eight minutes and tied for a game-high 22 points on the night.

“I thought our coaching staff did a great job of confidence-building all week with some of our guys who have not been playing particularly well. Andy Flood really did a nice job. He's a kid that was struggling and we really go between him and Matthew Schumate, but he hit that shot, he kind of felt it, we rode him, and when guys like that step up, it makes it easier for everyone else to play within their game,” Ruthsatz said.

For Holmes, it was a night of difficult shooting as no player could find a consistent rhythm on offense as they missed on nearly every kind of shot. Holmes senior guard James Bolden had hurt his wrist in the game before and it was still taped on Friday. The wrist may have hampered the star guard's shooting as he finished with an uncharacteristic eight points on the evening. It was the second game in a row against Cov Cath where Bolden scored eight points and coach Scott Ruthsatz talked about how his team defends the Mr. Basketball candidate.

“Once he gets going, it's just a total collapse and then you surround him,” Ruthsatz said about his team's strategy against Bolden. “He's so good in traffic and moving his body that you have to surround him. If we can just stand there and make him move, and make the shot alter a little bit, we're okay with that.”

The Bulldogs watched the lead grow into the teens as the second quarter progressed and a sense of frustration began to grow within the team. They were not able to convert at all from deep, missing all seven three-point attempts in the first half and even struggled shooting free-throws, shooting just 6-13 before halftime.

Once the teams emerged from the locker rooms for the second half, the Bulldogs needed something to change, so they tried going with a full-court trap in hopes of forcing turnovers. The Colonels, though, are polished when facing full-court defenses and they handled it masterfully, finding easy buckets when finishing on their own end. Ruthsatz said the recent winter storms that the region saw recently gave his team the time needed to polish up some things, including handling the trap.

“We were able to get a couple weeks of snow days to really regroup the last couple of games, and we were able to go through our motion sets and all our stuff that we need to perfect, kind of shrink everything down to make it simple and then just execute,” said Ruthsatz.

Another facet of the game Cov Cath dominated was rebounding as they nearly doubled the Holmes total number of rebounds, 39-20.

“Rebounding is key against them because they do a nice job. We spent a lot of time watching whether or not we rebounded. We cannot rely on Bo Schuh to get every single rebound and we were. Tonight, you had Andy Flood in there and Cooper Theobald in there,” Ruthsatz said.

With the Colonels finding easy shots by beating the press and crushing the Bulldogs on the boards, Holmes needed to dramatically improve their shooting percentage to narrow the deficit, but that was not to be. The misses began to pile up in the second half and the score swelled in the third quarter in the Colonels favor and the game was in hand by the beginning of the fourth.

Once Bolden fouled out with six minutes left in the game, everyone in the gym knew it was too late for a Holmes victory and the Colonels savored their District Championship. Sophomore guard Cole VonHandorf was named Tournament MVP and finished the game with 22 points.

For Holmes, junior guard Marcus Mullins led the team with 13 points, while Markel McClendon added 12. Both teams will play in the 9th Region Tournament next week at The Bank of Kentucky Center.

- Story and photo by Bryan Burke, associate editor