HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - It took some time, but the Covington Catholic boys’ basketball team found a way to beat Newport, 63-48, in a ninth Region semifinal game on Saturday at the Bank of Kentucky Center.
By switching to zone defense and getting some baskets on run-out plays, CovCath was able to pull away in the third quarter and pick up the win that puts their team in the regional championship game for the first time since 2008.
CovCath (27-6) will face long-time rival Holmes (30-2) in the title game at 6 p.m. Sunday with the winner advancing to next week’s “Sweet 16” state tournament at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
Holmes defeated CovCath, 71-60, during the regular season. When the teams met again in the 35th District final last week, CovCath junior guard Nick Ruthsatz made a last-second shot from beyond the half-court line to give his team a 73-72 victory.
It was Ruthsatz who provided the spark CovCath needed to take control of Saturday’s game against Newport.
In the third quarter, the Colonels went on a 9-0 scoring run to open up a 35-22 lead.
Ruthsatz got the assist on the first two baskets with long up-court passes to teammates on run-out plays. He also scored a basket on a run-out.
“Our bigs (big guys) started running and we started kicking it up to them,” Ruthsatz said. “They were catching and finishing, and that’s when we started going.”
The Colonels had a 40-26 lead at the end of the third quarter and opened the final period with a 13-2 run to put the game away. Newport wasn’t able to keep up because its offense was stymied by CovCath’s active zone defense.
“Once we got our (zone) working a little bit, (Newport) seemed to really just not know where to go exactly, so we just stayed with it,” said CovCath coach Scott Ruthsatz. “I thought that was a big boost because we’re taking time off the clock while they’re figuring out what to do.”
Newport ended up shooting 33.3 percent (18 of 54) from the field compared to CovCath’s 42.3 percent (22 of 52). The leading scorers were guards Ja Quan Short of Newport with 15 points and Nick Fredrick of CovCath with 14.
CovCath’s other double-figure scorers were Nick Ruthsatz, the coach’s son, with 13 points and sophomore forward Bo Schuh with 11. Junior center Mark Schult came off the bench to contribute nine points.
“That’s the story behind us this year,” Nick Ruthsatz said. “It’s just not me scoring 18 or 19 a game like last year. Other people are stepping up and doing what it takes to get a win.”
Newport was able to cut the margin from 26 points to 15 points during the final minutes of the fourth quarter. But that didn’t offer much consolation to Wildcats’ coach Rod Snapp.
“Honestly, going into it, we felt like we could play with them,” Snapp said. “We just hit a rough patch, missing some shots and missing some free throws, and our backs were against the wall after that.”
CovCath coach Ruthsatz said his players will approach Sunday’s championship game with the same mindset they’ve had all year.
“You’re next game is your biggest game of the season. We’ve just got to go out with that mentality,” the coach said. “We’ve tried all year to do that. We’ve fallen short a few times, but I’m really happy for our kids. They’ve worked really hard to get to this point and I’m really excited for them.”
COVCATH 13-12-15-23 – 63
NEWPORT 10-7-9-22 – 48
COVCATH (27-6): Fredrick 5 2 14, Schuh 5 1 11, Pauly 3 2 8, Wichmann 1 0 2, Theobald 1 2 4, Ruthsatz 3 5 13, Tobler 1 0 2, Schult 3 3 9. Totals: 22 15 63.
NEWPORT (21-11): Ja Sean Short 3 2 8, Ja Quan Short 5 2 15, Snapp 1 0 3, Joseph 1 2 4, Commodore 3 0 7, Pearson 5 1 11. Totals: 18 7 48.
Three-pointers: CC – Fredrick 2, Ruthsatz 2. N – Ja Quan Short 3, Snapp, Commodore.
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