Campbell County’s Trent McGovney looks to get past CovCath’s Cole VonHandorf during their first round game in the Boys’ Sweet Sixteen in Lexington’s Rupp Arena, March 18, 2015.
LEXINGTON – Wednesday night’s opening round of the 2015 Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 state basketball tournament featured the de facto regional championship of Northern Kentucky. A collision of Covington Catholic Colonels and Campbell County Camels with crucial consequences.
The conclusion concerned a confident kid named Cole controlling the contest, as Cov Cath guard Cole VonHandorf claimed credentials to keep his championship hopes credible, carrying the defending Kentucky champion Colonels to a convincing 64-43 win over the Camels in the first round at Rupp Arena.
VonHandorf, a sophomore, collected a game-high 29 points, 21 of them in crunch time in the second and third quarters when the Colonels collaborated closely with each other on course to a big lead.
“We lost a lot of seniors from last year, so I knew I had to step up with my senior point guard Cooper (Theobald),” VonHandorf said. “We were clicking early, passing the ball around and making our shots. They made it easy for me.”
The Ninth Region champion Colonels (30-5) and 10th Region champ Camels (25-10) were both in the state tourney for the second consecutive year. The Colonels won it all last year while the Camels were ousted in the first round. This time, they were matched up right away under the state’s random draw format.
After Matt Wilson’s lay-up gave the Camels a 20-14 lead early in the second quarter, VonHandorf found his spots and his range. Consecutive 3-pointers by VonHandorf surrounding another layup from Wilson cut the CCH deficit to 22-20. Cov Cath forward Shumate tied the game at 22, then a moment later, VonHandorf scored on a fast break.
His running attempt in transition hit the rim and the ball bounced right back to him at full speed. He was able to catch and put it back up in one motion to give the Colonels a 24-22 lead. The Colonels never trailed again.
Seniors Bo Schuh and Cooper Theobald continued with buckets to close a 14-2 run for the Colonels before Jackson hit two free throws for the Camels. VonHandorf ended the half with a jumper, which was his 1,000th and 1,001st points in two years in a Cov Cath uniform. He already had 398 his eighth-grade year when he attended Villa Madonna Academy and led the Blue Lightning in scoring.
“It’s very exciting for me,” VonHandorf said of his 29 points. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They were making shots and the defense was helping on them and leaving me open.”
CCH led 32-26 at the half. For the game, VonHandorf was 10-of-16 from the floor and 2-of-3 from 3-point range. Several of his other buckets were mid-range jumpers.
“When he’s in the open court, he scores in lots of different ways,” said CCH head coach Scott Ruthsatz. “We don’t shoot it as well as we did last year but we have ways of moving our scorers around. With Cole, you put him in the high post or the baseline and kind of hide him down there. He’s really good at squaring his shoulders and he really elevates well on his jump shot. He’s really hard to guard in the middle.”
The Colonels started out with a quick 6-0 lead after one minute on two baskets by senior Andy Flood and one by senior Grant Romes. The Camels clawed back and led by six early in the second period at 20-14, with six different players scoring, before VonHandorf started to take over.
“I felt like early we did some good things to stay in the game,” said Campbell County head coach Aric Russell. “We played some 2-3 matchup to make them shoot it a little bit. And they hit some shots. VonHandorf was killing us. He was hitting everything. We let him get away from us too much. Second half, we played man-to-man on him and didn’t do too well with that, either.”
The Camels came out of the locker room at half with designs of coming back. Matt Wilson, the Camels’ 6-foot-8 junior center, had three blocked shots in the first two minutes of the half. One of them set up a fast-break that ended in a bucket by Blake Losey to cut the deficit to 32-28.
The Colonels came right back with a 12-0 run to pull away. VonHandorf had four points around a 3-pointer by Flood. Theobald, Ryan Massie and Will Heppler each had a pair of points to make it 44-28.
After a basket by Jackson stopped the run, VonHandorf scored five unanswered points to make it 49-30. Flood ended the third period with an acrobatic putback with his back to the basket when he flipped the ball back over his head with both hands as time ran out. CCH led 51-32.
In the third quarter, the Camels had four turnovers and six field-goal attempts. Campbell made 6-of-18 shots in the second half and 16-of-42 for the game (38 percent). CCH was 56 percent from the floor in the first half (14-of-25).
“We were on our heels all night on defense because we couldn’t make any shots,” Russell said. “Every time when you’re missing shots on a team like that, they’re going to push the other way and put pressure on the defense. It just started snowballing…We didn’t make shots and started pressing even more because you’re trying to make up for not making shots.”
In addition to VonHandorf, Theobald had 12 points, four assists and three steals. Flood had 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Jackson had 11 points for Campbell. Wilson posted 14 points and 12 rebounds while making all six of his field-goal attempts. The fact he only had six shots was a key win for the Colonels defense. Ruthsatz wanted “constant contact” by defenders, led by Romes, Heppler and Bo Schuh.
“They were bringing in a guy from behind,” Russell said. “We needed to make a few shots so they wouldn’t do that as much. They’re sagging in on him and leaving guys open. When we got it to him, he scored and he did a great job of that. They did a great job on defense.”