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Dan Weber's Just Sayin': Cov Cath's Ruthsatz Finds Home in NKY

Dan Weber writes a sports column for The River City News. Contact him at dweber3440@aol.com.

Scott Ruthsatz was pretty sure that by now – going into his 11th season as Covington Catholic basketball coach, he’d be somewhere else. “I didn’t think I’d be here,” he says, “probably somewhere else, closer to my family in Sandusky (Ohio).”

But with two sons – Nick and Aiden – who played point guard for him and moved on to college at Findlay and Christian Brothers respectively, Northern Kentucky has become the Ruthsatz home. For five of those 10 seasons at the Park Hills school, his Colonels have rewarded Scott’s stay with a Ninth Region title. In two of those years (2014, 2018), they won the school’s first and second state championships.

And here he is, getting ready for basketball’s start of practice next week with the news that his veteran team – after a 24-4 season a year ago – is the unanimous pick of the Northern Kentucky Basketball Coaches to win the region once again.

As for Ruthsatz, he’ll be coaching the Kentucky All-Stars next spring in the postseason matchup against Indiana that has become a talent mismatch for undermanned Kentucky teams in recent years.

But that’s hardly the case for CovCath in a Ninth Region that’s become the pride of the Bluegrass.

After 89 years with just one state title – Simon Kenton’s in 1981 – the Ninth Region has won four of the last 13. And last year, in a display of power no one here could have ever predicted, whichever one of three teams – eventual champion Highlands, St. Henry or CovCath – survived the regional could have won it all.

“Northern Kentucky has really established itself,” Scott says of how this is going with Holmes winning the Ninth Region’s second title in 2009. “We’ve got two (titles), Highlands last year and Cooper to the finals (in 2017),” he says, “that’s obviously great for the Ninth Region.”

And if the coaches poll is correct, the Colonels will have a shot once again.

Their schedule is a clue. “Anybody, anywhere,” Ruthsatz says. “We just added Indianapolis Cathedral.”

And there is a three-game tournament in Florida at the Villages and the four-game King of the Bluegrass at Louisville Fairdale.

But if you check out CovCath’s 30 games, just nine of those will be tipped off at home in Park Hills. And if it makes sense later in the season, they could lose one of those with the possibility that the North Laurel game (featuring touted UK prospect Reed Sheppard) could be moved to NKU’s 9,000-seat BB&T Arena. “We’d definitely welcome that,” Scott says of a potential move.

“That’s kind of our approach - making our schedule so competitive so we’re ready for the region.”

Not that CovCath has all that much choice about traveling. Even around Kentucky, teams won’t play the Colonels.

“Louisville Trinity and St. X, they won’t play us,” Scott says. “Lexington Catholic won’t play us.”

Nor will a number of Ninth Region teams in a schedule that shows just eight of them among the 30 – starting with the Dec. 3 opener against a strong Dixie Heights team that the coaches tabbed at No. 3. St. Henry is on the schedule as are district opponents Holy Cross, Beechwood, and Holmes along with Simon Kenton, Conner and Newport Central Catholic.

But that’s it.

Also Walton-Verona of the Eighth Region.

Cincinnati teams LaSalle, Sycamore, Indian Hill, St. Xavier, and McNicholas are there, as are Louisville schools Male and DeSales, along with Lexington’s Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Richmond’s Madison Central (twice), Oldham County, Clay County, and Ashland Blazer.   

So CovCath just moves on. Like the time they had a chance to play national power Oak Hills.

“What’s it going to hurt?,” Ruthsatz says of playing an all-star team loaded with Division I prospects that had CovCath down by three late before losing by eight.  

That’s how they got the return game this year from North Laurel. In last year’s Covid-disrupted season, his athletic director Tony Bacigalupo told him on Monday that North Laurel (in London) needed a game on Tuesday. Did he want to go? Start the bus, he said for a game CovCath would lose in overtime.

“You really can’t replicate that experience,” Scott says so when it comes to tournament time, and teams have to play you “they haven’t had that experience.”

In addition to returning his three leading scorers – 6-foot-7 senior center Mitchell Rylee, and juniors - 6-6 forward Chandler Starks and much-improved 5-11 point guard Evan Ipsaro – there’s a fourth leader this year who gives CovCath the shooter they didn’t have a year ago – 6-1 junior Kascyl McGillis. “Man, he can shoot it,” Ruthsatz says.

The bad news there for the rest of the Ninth Region? Three of those four will be back for another season next year . . . JUST SAYIN’.

NINTH REGION PRESEASON TOP 10 TIMES 2

Here are the Ninth Region’s top 10 basketball players voted by the coaches (in order: 1) Jacob Meyer, Holy Cross; 2) Mitchell Rylee, CovCath: 3) Evan Ipsaro, CovCath: 4) Ayden Hamilton, Campbell County: 5) Tez Galloway, Holmes: 6) Chandler Starks, CovCath; 7) Kiernan Geraci, Dixie Heights; 8) Will Herald, Highlands; 9) Zach Barth, Highlands; and 10) Landen Hamilton, Conner.

Here are the NKY coaches’ Top 10 teams: 1) CovCath; 2) Highlands; 3) Dixie Heights; 4) Conner; 5) Campbell County; 6) Beechwood; 7) Holy Cross; 8) Cooper; 9) Lloyd; and 10) Scott.

Too bad there’s no regular season game scheduled between the region’s No. 1 & 2 teams - CovCath and Highlands, winners of three of the last eight state championships . . . JUST SAYIN’.

AMAZIN’ MUSTANGS

This week’s Kentucky state Class A high school football stats paint a heck of a positive picture for the unbeaten Bishop Brossart Mustangs whose 7-0 record has them in the top five in seven of the 10 team statistics the KHSAA tabulates. And in three of them – scoring defense (3.1 ppg allowed), rushing (233 yards a game) and fumbles recovered (five in seven games), the Mustangs are No. 1. They’re No. 2 against the run (allowing 80 yards a game) and the pass (56 yards allowed per game), No. 5 in scoring margin (23.0 point differential) and team sacks (2.3 per game). Too bad there’s not a regular season meeting with the next highest-ranked Class A team here in the RPI ratings, fellow Diocesan school Newport Central Catholic, who leads Brossart in the AP voting, in the regular season. Should be fun when we get to the playoffs . . . JUST SAYIN’.

BY THE NUMBERS NKY

Unbeaten Beechwood (6-0) continues to represent Northern Kentucky best in the state’s high school football polling this week at No. 2 in Class 2A behind a Lexington Christian team (118 total points) that grabbed 10 of the 12 first-place votes with Beechwood (110 points) getting the other two. Walton-Verona is No. 14 with a single point . . . Newport Central Catholic (4-2, 52 points) is No. 6 in Class A with Bishop Brossart (5-1, 44 points) close behind in Class A . . . Scott moves up from unranked a week ago to No. 9 in Class 5A while Holmes, with a loss to No. 11 Rowan County, falls to 16th in 4A . . . CovCath (4-3, 43 points) tops local teams in Class 5A ahead of No. 9 Cooper (3-3, 13 points), which moved up from unranked a week ago. Conner is 12th in 5A with Highlands 13th  . . . Ryle (4-2, 50 points) is the lone Northern Kentucky team ranked in Class 6A at No. 6 after a loss to No. 2 Louisville St. Xavier with unbeaten Louisville Male getting all 12 first-place votes in 6A. Looking forward to the playoffs and how this all shakes out. Not sure I could vote any Class 2A team ahead of Beechwood . . . JUST SAYIN’.     

--Dan Weber 

Photo: Covington Catholic Coach Scott Ruthsatz talks to a player (RCN file)