By Dan Wright
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Midway through Covington Catholic’s 52-30 win against Ryle in the first round of the 9th Region tournament at NKU on Monday, Colonels head coach Scott Ruthsatz was not pleased.
The Colonels held a comfortable 15-point lead, 37-22, but had surrendered a pair of easy buckets to Ryle’s Drew Mays early in the third quarter.
Ruthsatz called a timeout and made sure his team knew it could not let up.
“We just had to refocus our attention back on defense, which we kind of lacked in the first half,” said Ruthsatz of his message during the timeout. “This whole year, the big games we’ve won, we won it with defense. We’ve got kids that can score, we’ve got kids that can make shots, but it’s got to come on the defensive end that we can win games in a tournament situation where it’s one and done. Even though we were winning big, I said I don’t like our effort. We’re not giving enough effort and after that I thought they were giving a little bit more.”
The Colonels increased effort held the Raiders scoreless for a 12-minute stretch that was only broken in the game’s final minute after CovCath had extended its lead to 30 points.
The Colonels used nine first-half points from sophomore forward Bo Schuh and eight from junior center Mark Schult in the second quarter to build a 31-18 halftime lead, but it was CovCath’s defense that choked off any comeback hopes for the Raiders.
Ryle shot just 22.9-percent from the floor (11 for 48) and 26.7-percent (4 for 15) from 3-point range, figures that were improved when the Raiders made their final three shots of the game, including a pair of threes, in the final minute.
CovCath shot 38.3-percent from the floor (23 for 60) and 21.4-percent (3 for 14) from 3-point range, but also turned the ball over just six times to the Raiders 14 turnovers.
Schuh finished with games highs of 15 points and eight rebounds for CovCath.
“Bo gives us that added dimension of just a really good athlete who gets off the floor really well and gets his hands on a lot of rebounds,” Ruthsatz said. “I think tonight he had eight rebounds, four offensive. That’s what we need him to do. We need him to be an energy guy, and by doing that he’s going to get some easy baskets.”
Junior guard Nick Ruthsatz added nine points and Schult finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Senior forward Sawyer Polly added five assists.
Ryle was led by guards Mark Fussenegger and Drew Mays, who had six points each.
The Colonels advance to play Newport in Saturday’s first semifinal at NKU at noon.
A win there could set up a rematch with Holmes, which CovCath beat on a half-court shot to win the 35th District tournament last week.
Ruthsatz said that game may have factored into his team’s lack of focus on Monday.
“Tonight was a game where kids would traditionally be fired up for it or amped for it, but there’s still a hangover from Friday night,” said Ruthsatz. “We’re not going to lie. We’re not going to kid ourselves. I just told them in the locker room, I said you know what? Just admit that you weren’t pumped up for Ryle. Let’s just admit it. We won. Let’s move forward. But we cannot go any further with this attitude and I think they all understood that.”
RYLE (12-18): Mays 3 0 6, Fussenegger 2 0 6, Lonneman 1 0 3, Bellew 1 0 2, White 2 0 4, Owens 1 0 2, Turner 1 0 3, Stuhr 0 4 4. Totals 11 4 30.
COVINGTON CATHOLIC (25-6): Frederick 1 1 3, Schuh 6 2 15, Pauly 2 0 4, Ruthsatz 4 0 9, Heppler 2 0 5, Hemmer 1 0 2, Tobler 3 0 6, Schult 4 0 8. Totals 23 3 52.
3-pointers: R—Fussenegger 2, Lonneman, Turner. CC—Schuh, Ruthsatz, Heppler.
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