Covington Catholic forward Bo Schuh blocks the shot of St. Henry guard Logan Kenney in Monday’s 9th Region semifinal at the Bank of Kentucky Center. CovCath prevailed, 72-53.
Covington Catholic looked like the heavy favorite to come out of the top half of the Ninth Region tournament bracket after last week’s draw. However, the Colonels’ road to the championship game proved to be anything but easy.
After surviving an overtime scare in Saturday afternoon’s quarterfinal, CovCath had to come back from a halftime deficit Tuesday night at the Bank of Kentucky Center to take down St. Henry, 72-53. CovCath was ranked second in the final Enquirer area coaches’ poll, while St. Henry finished at No. 9 and Newport was unranked.
“We haven’t had two slow starts all season, so hopefully that means we get a good start on the next one,” CovCath coach Scott Ruthsatz quipped after Tuesday’s win. “I was really disappointed Saturday with our effort against Newport. We just stopped our momentum and didn’t execute. We have to be much more aggressive right off the bat whether the other team is playing zone against us or not.”
Sophomore Cole VonHandorf led CovCath with a game-high 24 points. He took control of the game in the third quarter during the Colonels’ decisive run, and scored 14 of his points in the second half.
For St. Henry, junior guard Adam Goetz played with no fear in the first half and attacked CovCath’s defense at every opportunity. He scored 16 of his team-high 23 points before halftime, despite the Colonels face guarding him with one of its best defenders at all times.
“The first game we played against them, I don’t think Goetz scored,” Ruthsatz said. “Tonight he comes out and gets 16 in the first half. (Coach) Dave (Faust) had them ready to play.”
The Colonels beat the Crusaders by 28 back on December 9, but they faced a much different team Tuesday night.
“They were much better at just handling the pressure,” Ruthsatz said. “We watched the film from that first game, but it’s so hard to go back to that because it was game two and everybody gets better.”
Goetz, who led the Crusaders with 19 points in the quarterfinals against Cooper, gave his team its first lead, 5-2, a little over two minutes into the first quarter when he finished an and-one floater in the lane. His contested fadeaway jumper at the three minute mark extended the Crusaders’ lead to 12-8, and then he hit an off-balance, hanging 3-pointer just before the buzzer to make it 17-11 heading into the second quarter.
St. Henry led by as many as nine with two minutes left in the second, but the Colonels finished the half on a 7-2 run capped by Andy Flood’s and-one finish in the lane in the final minute to cut the Crusaders’ lead to 33-29 at intermission.
Flood started off the second half by burying a three from the left corner on the first possession to make it a one-point game, 33-32. A few minutes later, CovCath took its first lead since early in the first quarter on a 17-foot jumper by VonHandorf. That made the score 40-39 in favor of the Colonels.
VonHandorf found his rhythm at that point, and scored 10 points in the third. He scored six straight to help spark an 11-2 run for the Colonels that quickly inflated their lead to 49-41. Flood’s drive to the rim in transition pushed CovCath’s lead to double-digits 55-45 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
“I just knew we could get in a rhythm if we started moving the ball,” VonHandorf said. “We had a really good practice and moved the ball really well yesterday, so I just told our team that if we move the ball and keep shooting like we worked on (our shots) would start going in.”
Alex Green’s 3-point play less than two minutes into the fourth, cut the Crusaders’ deficit to five and got the St. Henry fans back on their feet, but Flood’s layup at the other end killed the short-lived momentum. For the rest of the game, the Colonels had an answer to quickly put out any flicker of hope left for the 34th District runner-ups as they shot 70 percent from the field.
Flood and Cooper Theobald each played key roles in helping the Colonels gain and maintain their lead in the second half. Flood scored nine points after halftime to finish with 14, and Theobald added 17 points for the game with 11 coming in the second half.
“A lot of times when the other team is in zone, guys have a tendency to just float from place to place,” Ruthsatz said. “We really wanted our guys to be aggressive, posting up and screening the zone.”
CovCath will make its third straight appearance in the Ninth Region championship Tuesday night at 7 pm.
St. Henry (20-13) – Goetz 8 5 23, Green 4 1 9, Kenney 3 1 7, Kunstek 1 4 6, Wallenhorst 3 0 6, Myers 0 2 2.
CovCath (28-5) – VonHandorf 10 4 24, Theobald 5 7 17, Flood 6 1 14, Schuh 5 0 10, Romes 1 1 3, Shumate 0 3 3, Massie 0 1 1.
Halftime: St. Henry 33 CovCath 29. 3-Pointers: CovCath 1(VonHandorf), St. Henry 2(Goetz 2).