Holmes forward Rod Avery attempts a shot at the KHSAA 9th Region Finals at Bank of Kentucky Center. Covington Catholic defeated Holmes 45-37 to claim the 9th Region Title.
CovCath is headed back to Rupp Arena for the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Sweet 16.
The Colonels trailed Holmes for most of the regional championship game, but turned it on in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to pull away for a 45-37 win Tuesday night at the Bank of Kentucky Center. Sophomore guard Cole VonHandorf scored a game-high 17 points and was named Most Valuable Player of the Ninth Region tournament.
“I just learned last year watching Nick Ruthsatz take over our team,” VonHandorf said. “With him leaving, I knew I had to take over. We were down most of the game, and I figured my team needed me to step up. I got my shots, and it ended up working out.”
CovCath will face Campbell County in the first round of the Sweet 16 March 18 at 6:30 pm. The Camels beat Scott 89-57 in Tuesday night’s 10th Region championship.
VonHandorf gave CovCath its only lead of the first half on the Colonels’ first two possessions with a pair of jumpers from the left wing to make it 5-0, before Rod Avery got Holmes on the scoreboard with a dunk at the other end. VonHandorf scored seven in the first quarter and Avery scored six, including another impressive two-handed tip-dunk. Holmes guard Markel McClendon’s three rattled in with 1:30 to play in the first quarter tied the game at 9-9.
Both teams made small runs in the second period. CovCath jumped up 13-9, but Holmes came back and tied it up when Avery flushed his third dunk on an alley-oop lob from McClendon that was thrown from just a few steps inside of halfcourt. Both teams struggled from the perimeter and finished the first half just 1-for-7 from 3-point range, as Holmes clung to a 22-19 lead.
CovCath had a chance to tie the game early in the second half on a one-and-one by VonHandorf, but he missed the free-throw and Holmes guard James Bolden hit a three at the other end to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to four.
Bolden, a West Virginia signee, finished 4-of-12 from the field, including 1-of-8 from 3-point range, with 11 points and six rebounds.
Holmes held onto that advantage until the first possession of the fourth quarter when CovCath’s Cooper Theobald made a layup to tie it at 29-29 and spark an 8-0 CovCath run. Grant Romes’ tip-in midway through the quarter were his first points of the game and CovCath’s first lead since the first quarter. Bo Schuh’s dunk off of a pick-and-roll assist from VonHandorf on the following possession extended the Colonels’ lead, and then two free throws from Theobald made it 39-33.
Coach Scott Ruthsatz joked after the game that Romes’ tip-in to get the Colonels over the hump was his best shot of the season. The senior entered Tuesday night averaging just 3.5 points per game and is known for being a rugged defender that does all the small things.
“That was his best shot of the year,” Ruthsatz said. “We’ve never given up on any of our kids. They know we believe in them and they believe in us, and that’s why we got the effort.”
Avery’s drive and finish with 1:30 left pulled Holmes to within one possession, 40-37, but the Colonels took care of the ball and made their free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
“Our seniors told us last year that winning it when you’re younger is nothing like winning it as a senior,” said Schuh, who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. “Everybody said before the season that we couldn’t do it without Nick (Ruthsatz) because he just played so great last season. We just played total team basketball. Everybody played great.”
Tuesday night marked the third straight championship game that Schuh had appeared with the Colonels. Over the course of his varsity career, he’s help compile an 89-14 record.
“Our seniors were tremendous leaders,” Ruthsatz said. “What Bo has done in three years as a starter has to be somewhat unprecedented. He’s such a warrior.”
Ninth Region All-Tournament Team: MVP – Cole VonHandorf, CovCath. Ethan Snapp, Newport; Sean McNeil, Cooper; Drew McDonald, NewCath; Brett Mayberry, Boone County; Austin Schreck, Dixie; Alex Green, St. Henry; Cooper Theobald, CovCath; Rod Avery, Holmes; Liam Rabe, Dixie; Adam Goetz, St. Henry; James Bolden, Dixie; Bo Schuh, CovCath.
Holmes (23-9) – Avery 6 2 14, Bolden 5 0 11, Moore 2 4 8, McClendon 1 1 4. Totals 14 7 37.
CovCath (29-5) – VonHandorf 7 2 17, Schuh 5 2 12, Theobald 2 7 11, Romes 1 0 2, Heppler 1 0 2, Shumate 0 1 1. Totals 16 12 45.
Halftime: Holmes 22 CovCath 19. 3-Pointers: CovCath 1 (VonHandorf), Holmes 2(Bolden, McClendon)