Dreams of a Repeat Live: Cov Cath Moves On After Beating Doss
Some teams win with athleticism, other teams win with size, but Covington Catholic wins with discipline and heart. The Colonels pulled out another gritty performance on Friday afternoon when they moved past (Louisville) Doss, 61-48, in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 quarterfinals at Rupp Arena.
“The one thing you cannot do is to go in there scared,” Cov Cath head coach Scott Ruthsatz said after the game. “We talked them up as much as we could about being aggressive and to not worry about mistakes. Everybody misses shots, so just go out there and play to the best of your ability and you will be fine.”
In an intense and at times heated game that saw four technical fouls, the surge that Cov Cath needed late in the game came from an unlikely source in backup center Will Heppler.
Near the end of the the third quarter, the game had ebbed and flowed with neither team able to establish itself as the dominant side. Then during a dead ball, senior center Bo Schuh got tied up with Doss' Dujuan Weaver and the two pushed each other a bit before being separated. Technicals were called on both players which hurt the Colonels because it was Schuh's fourth foul. The score when Heppler checked in was 41-40 Doss, but that's when the tables turned for good.
“Will Heppler took his job and he stepped up,” Cole VonHandorf said. “He's been waiting all year and he played his role.”
Before Heppler provided the Colonels spark to help his team pull away, it was a battle for three quarters. Both teams went with their strengths which proved to be a good match for a while.
The Colonels have faced a string of teams that have played a 2-3 zone against them because they had not proven themselves to shoot well over the zone. Cov Cath sophomore guard Cole VonHandorf might have changed that philosophy, though, when he poured in 29 points on Wednesday in the first round against Campbell County.
The Dragons chose to play the Colonels straight up man-to-man instead and it allowed Cov Cath to settle in more to their preferred style of attacking the rim. Anytime Cov Cath possessed the ball after a miss or a steal, they looked to speed to the other end as fast as humanly possible and score on transition lay-ups. This strategy looked comfortable for the Colonels as they did find many early scoring opportunities in this fashion, but the problem became that Doss found their style of play just as effective.
The starting point guard and the straw that stirs Doss's drink is Weaver, whose speed with the ball to get into the lane on a half-court set looked challenging for any defense to handle. In the first half, it was no different for Coach Ruthsatz's team who had a heck of a time keeping Weaver in front of them. Because he was able to blow past whoever was guarding him, the other defenders had to collapse in the paint against him which left open players on the wing and on the block.
“He was able to get into the lane and dish or score, either way. So we took our chances and what we decided to do was let them shoot perimeter jump shots. Once you do that though, you have to rebound the ball, and then you we were able to rebound and get out in transition.” Ruthsatz said.
Not only was Weaver able find easy assists, he also showed that he could score himself. Weaver had six of his team's 12 first-quarter points. Neither team was able to gain an advantage and the score was tied at 12 after the opening period.
The other problem for the Colonels was their rebounding. They are collectively smaller than Doss and it became important for Cov Cath to establish good rebounding position by boxing out their man underneath. While they struggled to contain Doss center Tyler Jefferson at times, they bounced back and ended the half with a rebounding advantage, 18-15. Senior forward Grant Romes showed a lot of toughness on the block by boxing out and pulling down six first half boards. When Bo Schuh took it strong to the hoop off of an intercepted pass and scored off the glass in transition, the Colonels took a 19-15 lead and looked to have settled in some. Then Ramon Collins came off of the bench for Doss and the big man closed the gap almost immediately with a dunk in the paint from a Weaver pass and another two close to the basket. Collins finished with a team-high 11 points off of the bench.
Doss finished the half with the slimmest of leads, 27-26.
Like the first game in Lexington, however, the Colonels owned the second half, but it certainly didn't start that way. Cov Cath turned the ball over on their first possession and Grant Romes was quickly called for his third foul with a reach in on the opposite end of the court. Then, when Terrell Gray scored on the block with a nice pass from Weaver, the Dragons extended their lead to five, 31-26. That would be the brightest spot of the game for Doss, though, as things were about to change.
“I thought the second half, similar to yesterday was where we ran our sets, we handled their pressure for the most part, and we rebounded,” Ruthsatz said. “We executed offensively the way we wanted to and we kept them out of the lane.”
First, junior Andy Flood tied the game with a hoop and the harm, as he converted on an old-fashioned three-point play. Then Schuh began to establish himself as a shot blocker with a sway in the paint that VonHandorf took all the way for an easy left-hand lay-up on the break. Coach Ruthsatz reminded his team that they should allow no easy baskets and that fouling underneath is a better play than letting the Dragons score in close. CCH found themselves up a point midway in the third, but it appeared that they had to work twice as hard to maintain it. That's when their heart and determination came into play.
Once Heppler came in and changed things, the game took on a different complexion.
First he scored on the block, then he swatted an entry pass in the post away for a steal. That put the Colonels up two, 43-41, heading into the fourth. He scored again with an easy two in the paint thanks to a nice pass from VonHandorf. Then he collected three straight defensive rebounds on Doss misses and the lead was extended to five.
A short time later, VonHandorf was fouled on a fast break when he smartly changed speeds and drew the foul. His two free throws extended the lead to nine, 51-42, and the Colonels began to extend their lead into the comfort zone.
That's when another set of technical fouls were called when VonHandorf and Collins got chippy after being tied up after a Doss miss. The techs did not bother the Colonels, though, as they coasted the rest of the way from the free-throw line, most notably VonHandorf making nine of ten free throws in the second half.
The Colonels continue their attempt for back-to-back state finals when they take on Owensboro at 6:30 on Saturday evening.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photos by Marc Figgins, RCN contributor