By Dan Wright
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Midway through the first quarter of Sunday’s 51-43, 9th Region semifinal win against Newport Central Catholic, Covington Catholic head coach Scott Ruthsatz noticed something wasn’t quite right with Nick Ruthsatz, his son and senior leader.
“I didn’t really know anything beforehand, but the first quarter I could just kind of sense from the look on his face he wasn’t feeling too well out there,” Scott Ruthsatz said.
Said Nick Ruthsatz: “I don’t know what it is. I’ve been puking the whole time. At halftime. Just now. I chugged like five waters before the game because I got dehydrated last game, but I don’t know if that’s backfired on me or what.”
The younger Ruthsatz powered through, scoring 20 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Colonels past the Thoroughbreds in Sunday’s monumental matchup in front of a crowd that reached the upper sections of Northern Kentucky University’s 9,400-seat Bank of Kentucky Center.
“I was just thinking, I can’t go out like this,” Nick Ruthsatz said. “We worked too hard for this. We lost year in the championship. We’re not going out like that again. So I buckled down and fought through.”
CovCath entered the game with just one regional loss, to Holmes in the 35th District finals last weekend, while NewCath was undefeated against the region, winning each of those games by at least 15 points.
The teams’ regular-season matchup at CovCath was postponed at halftime due to moisture on the court, with the Colonels leading. That game was never completed.
Sunday’s matchup lived up to the hype, with neither team leading by more than five points until the final minute.
Things got particularly tense during a nearly eight-minute stretch in the third and fourth quarters in which both teams were unable to score while the Colonels maintained a tenuous, 34-33 lead.
“I knew our guys were tired. Nick was exhausted,” Scott Ruthsatz said. “If they were going to play zone, we were going to take a minute off. That was kind of like a break, a timeout so I could save one. We weren’t going to try to force anything, because we didn’t want (the pace) to go back up, so for us it kind of worked out.”
Nick Ruthsatz snapped the scoreless streak with a jumper with 4:32 remaining in the game, and after senior center Jake Schulte countered to end NewCath’s scoring drought, Ruthsatz buried a three that put CovCath in control, 39-35.
“He’s heck of a player,” said NewCath head coach Ron Dawn. “He hit two tough shots. The 15-footer off the dribble was a really tough shot. We were right there. The three, we didn’t get out quite as well as we had to and then he knocks down his free throws, which we knew he could that.”
Ruthsatz made six straight free throws down the stretch, all as part of one-and-one opportunities, as CovCath made 14 of 15 free throws (93.3 percent) in the game.
NewCath, on the other hand, made just 5 of 16 free throws (31.3 percent), missing all five free throws it shot in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know what we were from the line, but it wasn’t good,” Dawn said.
Dawn also felt the Thoroughbreds were unable to capitalize on their size inside, shooting just 30.3 percent (10 of 33) compared to CovCath’s 45.8 percent (11 of 24).
“We got it inside enough, and we got opportunities inside enough,” Dawn said. “We just didn’t capitalize on it enough.”
Senior guard Tanner Moeves led NewCath with 15 points, making two of his four 3-pointers in the final 1:04 to keep the Thoroughbreds in the game.
In addition to Ruthsatz’s 20 points, junior forward Bo Schuh had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Colonels and senior center Mark Schult added eight first-half points. The duo also helped the Colonels to a 33-32 rebounding edge.
“I thought we needed to be really physical,” Scott Ruthsatz said. “We said if they do get it inside, instead of letting them get easy baskets, foul them. For the most part, they’re pretty good free throw shooters, but they have to make them. We were hoping that first quarter of up and down took its toll on them.”
The Colonels have little time to celebrate their big win, facing Holmes in tonight’s 9th Region championship game after the Bulldogs beat CovCath both in last year’s 9th Region final and this year’s 35th District championship game.
“It’s going to be a quick digestion. We have to make sure we’re paying attention to this game (Holmes semifinal win), because our run is not over,” Scott Ruthsatz said. “We want to enjoy the atmosphere, but when they leave the arena today it’s got to be about who we are facing next. They’ve got totally turn to tomorrow night and get themselves ready to go.”
NEWCATH 16- 6-11-10—43
NEWCATH (29-4): Pangallo 3 1 8, T. Moeves 5 1 15, Schulte 2 1 5, McDonald 2 1 5, Weyer 3 0 6, G. Moeves 0 1 1, Franzen 1 0 3. Totals 16 5 43.
COVCATH (28-2): VonHandorf 3 2 8, Schuh 4 3 12, Ruthsatz 5 9 20, B. Heppler 1 0 3, Schult 3 0 8. Totals 16 14 51.
3-pointers: N—T. Moeves 4, Pangallo, Franzen. C—Schult 2, Schuh,
Ruthsatz, B. Heppler.