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Boys Basketball PHOTOS: Cov Cath Outlasts Newport in OT, St. Henry Marches On

Newport was one made free-throw away from pulling off the second huge upset of the 9th Region tournament, but instead Covington Catholic held on in overtime to win, 57-49. On Friday, Holmes ousted New Cath in their quarterfinal game, and Newport was so close to pulling off the same result against the defending state champions, but lost steam in the overtime session.

Cov Cath (27-5) came out hot, scoring easy baskets on nice passes, racking up points and assists and taking a quick 10-0 lead. Newport looked a little out of control to start the game, missing close looks at the basket, turning the ball over on fast breaks and throwing up forced jumpers. The Wildcats found themselves in trouble early on, down 14-7 after the first quarter.

They would not lie down and give up, however, and the second quarter was a different story altogether. Newport went to a zone defense and changed the offensive pattern for the Colonels. CCH found it harder to score against the zone and relied on cutters to the rim being fouled on their attempts. Coach Ruthsatz had stern discussions with his team during time outs and appeared to be demonstrating how to better slide their feet on defense.

“It can be the kiss of death,” Ruthsatz said after the game. “You get up early, 10-0, and you would think we would have the wherewithal that this is an elimination game and that this is the time to go after the jugular and take it to another level, but we just didn't do that.”

Sure enough, the Wildcats willed themselves back into the game, when Cameron Covington scored on a one-handed putback that closed the gap to a one-possession game, 16-13. Then, after a nice spin-move basket in the paint for Colonel sophomore Cole VonHandorf, Newport ripped off a 5-0 run, including a three-pointer by junior guard Ethan Snapp, who led the game with eight points at halftime, and finished with a team-high 20 for the game. When point guard Paul Price set up freshman guard Rico Hollis on a layup with under a minute left in the first half, the score was tied at 18 apiece.

After halftime, Newport guard Paul Price had to go to the bench with three fouls with 6:10 left in the third. VonHandorf then started became the focal point to the Colonels offensive attack, but had mixed results in the third quarter. First he took the ball hard to the rim form the baseline for a bucket, but then missed his next attempt of similar fashion and missed a three-pointer after that.

With Price on the bench, the ball-handling duties fell to Snapp and freshman Rico Hollis. The Colonels applied a trap defense beginning at the half court line and tried to fluster the Newport guards into hasty decisions. It had the opposite effect, however, and Newport passed their way to open easy looks. Snapp tied the game with long jumper, then Hollis got to the rim easily with his quickness. Snapp gave Newport its first lead with a three from the top midway through the third quarter. Forward Kedan Davis did a nice job distributing in the paint for the Wildcats against the trap.

“We had to contain the ball, keep them in front and make them take parameter jump shots. If we would have done that earlier on, we would have been in much better shape,” Ruthsatz said.

In the fourth, it looked like Cov Cath had a chance to separate themselves from the Wildcats by going on an 11-2 run capped off by an easy lay up off of the inbounds pass for VonHandorf. Newport had a rash of turnovers to start off the last period, that let the Colonels to lead by as many as five before Price turned the momentum back around for the Wildcats with a big three-pointer to put the score back to a one-possession game.

When junior forward Andy Flood was called for a charge, he fouled out of the game with 15 points and looked to have played a nice game for his coach, but Ruthsatz said after the game that Flood has to do even more for the team to be at the team's best.

“Andy had a nice game, scoring-wise,” he said about Flood. “He does a nice job, he can score the ball, but I thought some of his decisions—both offensively and defensively—put us in situations. Overall, though, Andy has been playing better each game.”

When Flood hit the bench, the Wildcats woke up again beginning with Snapp making three free-throws to give Newport their first fourth-quarter lead and fueling them with confidence that they could win the game.

With under 10 seconds left to play and down by one, the Colonels found themselves in a position that they did not expect to be in. Coach Ruthsatz called a play for VonHandorf to pass to Bo Schuh, but Schuh was covered so the sophomore scoring sensation drove to the hoop with a jump-stop, left-handed runner that kissed off the glass and gave Cov Cath the lead.

The next play was hectic one as Paul Price threw a long pass to the other side of the floor. Two players collided in the air going for the ball and the ball fell to the floor, but VonHandorf was called for pushing on the play which sent Price to the line for two. He calmly knocked down the first one, tying the game. All he needed was one more free throw to put his team in position for the shocker, but he missed and the game needed overtime to be settled.

Newport is not a very deep team. They dress only 10 players and regularly play only seven or eight. Cov Cath is considerably deeper and that difference may have played a part for their sputtering in overtime.

Once the extra period began, it looked like Cov Cath woke up and realized that their repeat attempt at a state championship was truly on the line. Their defensive intensity turned up and made it hard for the Wildcats to even get a shot off.

First Price was called for a five-second call. Next Snapp was called for traveling. Then Price had another turnover, followed by a Davis miss. On the other end, VonHandorf made the free-throws he was given as Newport fell behind and was forced to foul in hopes of extending the game. VonHandorf went 11-2 from the free-throw line for the game and coolly knocked down the ones he faced in overtime. Once Snapp was called for another five-second call, and Hollis was called for a travel, the Newport battleship was sunk.

A noon tipoff is an unusual start time for Covington Catholic and perhaps that oddity kept the Colonels from demonstrating the energy and urgency necessary to escape out of the 9th Region Tournament.

“I don't know, I like the afternoon because you have the rest of the evening, but that might have had a little impact,” Ruthsatz said about the early start time. “We were off for more than a week which is typically really rare at this time of the year, but now that we got two more games, hopefully in three days we're back to our regular schedule.”

Whether this is a wake-up call for the Colonels remains to be seen, but head coach Scott Ruthsatz was not pleased with his team's play either way.

“We got lucky down the stretch. We weren't as aggressive as we should have been and as a coach I wasn't comfortable with their performance at all,” he said.

For Newport (14-17), it was an inspired effort that surpassed nearly everyone's expectations. They fought hard and played their hearts out, taking a heavyweight to the brink of elimination but fell one free throw short from creating the Cinderella story they sought.

St. Henry 48, Cooper 45

St. Henry came from behind in the second half to beat Cooper, 54-50, to advance in the semifinals of the 9th Region Boys Basketball Tournament at the Bank of Kentucky Center on Saturday afternoon.

It was quite an even matchup as both teams went back and forth throughout without either team able to extend a lead beyond single-digits. It came down to two primary scorers for their respective teams leading the way with Adam Goetz for St. Henry leading all scorers with 20 and Sean McNeil for Cooper with 18.

At one point in the third quarter, it appeared that Cooper was pulling away as they got their lead up to nine points, but the Crusaders fought back and down the stretch used the momentum they had built for themselves to carry them into the semifinal round where they will play Covington Catholic on Monday night at 6:30.

Early on McNeil had established himself as the go-to scorer for Cooper as is his usual role with the team. The sophomore forward averaged over 17 points per game on the season and has developed into a natural scorer. In the first quarter, he had tallied eight points, including two three-pointers.

The score was only separated by a single point at halftime with St. Henry on top, 22-21. After each team came out of their locker room for the second half, St. Henry had a spate of turnovers that allowed Cooper to mount a small third-quarter lead. A few minutes later, Adam Goetz had tied the score with another three and the stage was set for a close finish.

The Jaguars' Sean McNeil, however, did his best to keep that from happening as he nailed back-to-back threes that pushed the Cooper lead to nine by the end of the third quarter. Had he kept up his scoring pace, McNeil would have ended with over 20 points and his team would have likely preserved its lead. As it was, though, the Crusaders pushed back and when Cooper's Dante Hendricks turned the ball over that resulted in an easy St. Henry basket, the Jaguar lead was slimmed to just two and the pressure fell squarely on Cooper to keep their advantage.

That lead evaporated entirely when senior forward Paul Wallenhorst went to the line after a Cooper illegal screen and tied things up with just over a minute left in the game.

Hendricks redeemed himself for his previous turnover though by being fouled and making both free throws to put Cooper up by a pair with just over 30 seconds left.

St. Henry's Alex Green—who proved vital for the St. Henry win down the stretch—drove the lane and was bumped in the air as he scored on a close shot. His ensuing free-throw gave St. Henry its first lead of the second half with under a half-minute left in regulation.

With Cooper finding itself suddenly on the wrong end of the scoreboard, the pressure fell heavily on the Jaguars to pull it out. The pressure may have effected them too much, however, because McNeil was promptly called for a travel when he attempted to jump-stop while driving to the basket. After the turnover, Cooper was forced to foul which sent Goetz to the line where he made both, putting his team up three. That left one last possession for the Jaguars to tie, but McNeil's open three-point attempt rattled off with under two seconds left, and the game then belonged to St. Henry.

The Crusaders were the 34th District runner up losing to Dixie in the District final, but have erased the memories of that loss with their quality 9th Region win against a dangerous Cooper team. They are now 20-11, while Cooper ends their season at 18-9.  

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor

Photos by Brian Frey, RCN photographer

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