Dixie’s Liam Rabe takes the ball to the basket against CovCath’s Bo Schuh during their game at NKU Feb. 13, 2015.
Dixie Heights’ players and coaching staff have felt that they’ve belonged in the conversation with the top teams in Northern Kentucky and Ninth Region contenders for a while now. After Friday night’s 62-47 win over Covington Catholic, the rest of the local high school basketball community is taking notice.
Dixie broke a two-game losing skid by toppling the No. 1 team in the Enquirer Northern Kentucky coaches’ poll at the Bank of Kentucky Center with a balanced team effort that included stifling defense for the full 32 minutes.
Senior guard Austin Schreck led all scorers with 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists. Andrew Hedger added 14 points, four boards and two blocks, while Mitchell Bolin rounded out the double-figure scorers for Dixie with 11 points and eight rebounds.
CovCath was led by Matthew Shumate’s 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range.
“We’ve been wanting to belong in that conversation with the next three (CovCath, NewCath and Holmes), because we’ve been sort of grouped in with the ‘best of the rest’ all season,” Schreck said. “We wanted to come out here and try to make a point. It’s a lot of fun to come out here and show what you can do.”
Coach Ken Chevalier started the game with his team in a 2-3 zone, diverting from his standard man-to-man approach. The collective length of Dixie’s unit – which features the 6-foot-7 Bolin, 6-5 Hedger, 6-4 Drew Moore and 6-3 Nick Niehaus – kept CovCath out of the lane.
“If you would have told me 10 years ago that we’d play that much zone, I think I would have thrown up in my mouth,” Chevalier said. “I’m a hardcore man-to-man person, but we knew this year that if we wanted to play both our big men at the same time then we would have to give something up. We knew (CovCath) ran great man-to-man offense.”
Andy Flood scored the first points of the game by burying a three in the left corner after CovCath patiently rotated the ball around the perimeter against the zone. Dixie then proceeded to score the next six points on three transition baskets to take a 6-3 lead midway through the quarter, and led 14-10 at the end of one.
On the offensive end, Dixie took care of the ball against CovCath’s pressure defense, which kept the Colonels in blue from finding their rhythm by scoring easy baskets in transition. Dixie also attacked the lane constantly, either by driving or throwing it into the post. The frontcourt tandem of Hedger and Bolin combined for 14 points and five offensive rebounds in the first half.
“When we play our twin towers (Hedger and Bolin), that’s what our goal is… to try and punish people on the interior,” Chevalier said. “Those guys did a really good job of getting second chance opportunities and putting the ball in the basket.”
Hedger’s finish over the front of the rim with just over 2:30 left in the half pushed Dixie’s lead to 23-13. Then Moore’s and-one finish and free throw with 35.3 seconds left extended the lead to 28-13 at halftime.
The most impressive part of Dixie in the first half was its performance on the glass. The red Colonels outrebounded their opponent 34-22 for the game, including 20-6 in the first half.
“A lot of times when you play zone, you tend to give up offensive rebounds, but our kids were exceptional on the glass tonight,” Chevalier said.
Schreck’s and-one finish early in the second half ballooned his team’s lead over 20, 34-13, but CovCath made its first run of the game starting near the middle of the third quarter.
Noah Lenhof’s three late in the third cut CovCath’s deficit to 12, but Dixie answered right back with a three by Schreck to curb the run. CovCath made one last effort late in the fourth quarter, trimming it to single digits, 49-40, on a three by Cooper Theobald, but Dixie finished the game on a 13-7 run to pull away.
“I had us at third or fourth in the coaches’ poll coming into the season realistically,” Chevalier said. “Along the way, we have been the team that’s good enough (to contend) that hasn’t been getting much attention, and I think our kids can use that as a little bit of incentive. We feel like we’re looked at as the odd man out, and that’s a good place to be right now.”
CovCath (23-5) – Shumate 4 0 11, Schuh 4 1 9, Flood 2 4 9, Theobald 2 3 8, Lenhof 2 0 6, VonHandorf 0 4 4.
Dixie (18-7) – Schreck 5 4 15, Hedger 5 4 14, Bolin 5 1 11, Moore 3 3 9, Rabe 2 4 9, Isbel 0 2 2, Niehaus 1 0 2.
Halftime: Dixie 28-13. 3-Pointers: C 7 (Shumate 3, Lenhof 2, Flood, Theobald), D 2 (Schreck, Rabe).