In the past, the Bluegrass-Buckeye Charity Classic has been a local basketball event pitting schools from Northern Kentucky against schools from Ohio that has benefited charities such as the Ruth Lyons Children’s Fund, the Neediest Kids of All and Chicks & Chucks, a breast cancer awareness group.
This year, the event will feature only Northern Kentucky teams playing at Northern Kentucky University’s Bank of Kentucky Center, the host site of the Ninth Region tournament. The triple-header will feature six of the top 10 teams in the Enquirer’s coaches’ poll, including No. 1 NewCath facing off against No. 2 CovCath.
“We definitely wanted to have the event at the Bank of Kentucky Center,” said Terry Boehmker, one of the tournament directors. “And we realized that we had a hard time drawing fans from the Ohio teams with the games being held there, so we decided to try it with just the top teams in Northern Kentucky this year. We left the name the same because the money will still be going to benefit charities in Ohio and Kentucky.”
The Thoroughbreds and Colonels will tip-off at 8:30 pm as the headliner for Friday night’s three-game event. No. 3 Campbell County and No. 6 Scott will open at 5:30 followed by No. 8 Cooper versus No. 5 Holmes at 7 pm.
“All the teams were receptive to the idea,” Boehmker said when asked how the tournament was able to get such a strong slate of games. “With the success that they had last year for the NewCath/Holmes and Dixie/CovCath games that were hosted (at the Bank of Kentucky Center), I think they were impressed by that.”
There’s also a potential competitive advantage for at least the four Ninth Region teams that will be participating in the game.
“A lot of people said last year that the 35th district teams had an advantage in the regional tournament because they played their district tournament at the Bank of Kentucky Center,” Boehmker said. “And for the 10th Region teams, it’s still a chance to play a big game in a high profile arena.”
The rivalry between NewCath and CovCath for the top spot in Northern Kentucky is nothing new. Ranked as two of the top teams most of last season, they tried to play a regular season game last January but had the game called at halftime due to heavy and persistent condensation on CovCath’s floor. The teams met back up in the semifinals of the Ninth Region tournament and CovCath won 51-43, ending the Breds’ season before going on to capture the school’s first ever state title.
Both programs have bounced back strong this year. Neither has lost to a Northern Kentucky opponent yet. NewCath enters the week with a 10-2 record and is the owner of a current five-game winning streak. The Breds’ only two losses came to Louisville Doss and Louisville Ballard. CovCath owns a 10-3 record and is currently riding a six-game winning streak entering the week. The Colonels’ losses came against Louisville Trinity, Knott County Central and Boyle County – all three of which feature Division I recruits in their starting lineups.
NewCath is led by the frontcourt tandem of NKU commit Drew McDonald, who is averaging a double-double with 20.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, and junior Ben Weyer, who ranks second on the team with 18.5 points and 8.7 boards. Sophomore guard Cole VonHandorf (18.1 ppg) powers the Colonels’ attack, but the production of senior leader Bo Schuh (14.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg) in the post against McDonald and Weyer may play the most critical role in CovCath’s success on Friday.
The first game of Friday night will feature two hopeful contenders for the 10th Region crown in Campbell County and Scott. Campbell County, the reigning 10th Region champs, clipped the Eagles by three in the first round of the 37th District tournament last year. The Camels are looking to get back on track after hitting a three-game losing skid last week against Montgomery County, Lexington Christian and the 10th Region’s top team, Mason County. Scott suffered two tough losses in exciting back-and-forth games against good teams last week, falling to No. 5 Holmes 96-92 and No. 7 Simon Kenton 91-77.
The second game of the night will feature two of the top scoring guards in the area with Holmes senior and West Virginia signee James Bolden (20.2 ppg) going up against Cooper sophomore Sean McNeil (17.8 ppg). The Jaguars’ big men, particularly senior Colin Hathorn, will have to play well against Holmes’ Roderick Avery, who has had a breakout senior season averaging 14.2 points and 7.9 rebounds for the Bulldogs, if they want to have a chance at pulling off the upset.
Advance tickets at each of the participating schools are $7 for adults and $5 for students with proceeds going to charities. All tickets at the door will be $10.