By Terry Boehmker
The top two boys’ basketball teams in Northern Kentucky will meet in the first round of the 9th Region Tournament on Tuesday when Newport Central Catholic takes on Holmes at 6:30 p.m. at the Bank of Kentucky Center.
NewCath (30-2) has the best record in the region, which includes an 88-85 double-overtime win over Holmes (28-2) on Feb. 8.
In the first round of the post-season playoffs, NewCath won the 36th District and Holmes was runner-up in the 35th District. During the regional tournament draw
on Saturday, the two teams picked slots that made them first-round opponents.
“It’s wasn’t the ideal draw, but what are you going to do,” said NewCath coach Grant Brannen. “I mean eventually you might have to face them down the road anyway. It’s a tough draw, but you’ve got to go with it. That’s just part of the great thing about the post-season. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Holmes had a perfect 25-0 record before the double-overtime loss to NewCath. Brannen expects Tuesday’s rematch to be another formidable challenge for his team.
“I would think other than maybe the Louisville region it’s probably the top regional game in the state,” Brannen said. “But it’ll be fun. I’m sure there will be a great atmosphere. Hopefully, we can come out on top, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Brannen and his team are certainly tournament-tested. The Thoroughbreds won the Touchstone Energy Kentucky All “A” Classic small-school state championship earlier the season and four seniors were on the NewCath teams that lost in the 9th Region championship final the last two years.
“We’ve got some (tournament) experience,” Brannen said. “Hopefully, it will pay off in the next few games.”
The Thoroughbreds are riding an 18-game winning streak. To keep it going, Brannen said they’ll have to do a better job on offense than they did in wins over Highlands and Newport during the 36th District playoffs.
“We’re going to have to knock down shots,” he said. “We haven’t been shooting very well in the last couple of games. We’re going to have to play to our identity like we did earlier in the year.”
The 9th Region boys’ tournament will begin on Monday with Dixie Heights vs. Newport at 6:30 p.m. and Covington Catholic vs. Ryle at 8 p.m.
After the NewCath-Holmes first-round game at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Cooper will take on St. Henry at 8 p.m.
The semifinals are set for 12 noon and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday with the championship game tipping off at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Advance tickets will be sold for $6 at each of the eight participating schools. Admission at the door will be $8.
Here is the complete tournament schedule with records for each team:
MONDAY – UPPER BRACKET
Dixie Heights (17-13) vs. Newport (20-10), 6:30 p.m.
Covington Catholic (25-6) vs. Ryle (12-17), 8 p.m.
TUESDAY – LOWER BRACKET
Newport Central Catholic (30-2) vs. Holmes (28-2), 6:30 p.m.
Cooper (23-5) vs. St. Henry (10-15), 8 p.m.
Upper bracket semifinal, 12 p.m.
Lower bracket semifinal, 1:30 p.m.
Championship game, 6 p.m.
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