By Terry Boehmker
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – In the Kentucky high school basketball playoffs, district championship games are not must-win situations because both teams advance to the regional round.
But the Holmes Bulldogs got a much-needed boost of confidence from their 72-62 double-overtime win over Covington Catholic in the 35th District boys’ basketball final on Saturday at the Bank of Kentucky Center.
Holmes coach Jason Booher said some players left the team in February for reasons he did not mention. It took some time for the remaining players to put all that behind them, but they got back on track in time for the post-season playoffs.
“This is the most focused we’ve been all year,” Booher said. “Everything just came together these last couple days. I think it’s because they know what’s at stake.”
Holmes (26-5) is the first Kentucky team to beat CovCath (26-2) this season. The Colonels’ only other loss was to Fairfield High School in Ohio on Jan. 17.
Since teams from the same district are placed on opposite sides for the Region 9 Tournament bracket, the only way Holmes and CovCath could meet again is by making it to the regional championship game.
There were nine ties and 15 lead changes in Saturday’s district final. CovCath got off the final shot in both the fourth quarter and the first overtime, but neither of them went in the basket.
Holmes came out on top by outscoring CovCath, 13-3, in the final three minutes of the second overtime. Four players scored during the Bulldogs’ final run with junior guard James “Beetle” Bolden and senior center Quinton Chames getting four points each.
Bolden also grabbed two defensive rebounds during the game-winning run, including one that triggered a fast break dunk by Chames to give their team a 67-60 lead with less than a minute left.
“This victory is very important to us because it keeps us on track and keeps us on the positive side of things,” said Bolden, who finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals to earn the tournament most valuable player award.
The other double-figure scorers for Holmes were senior center Marcus Hill with 16 points, followed by Chames with 15 points and sophomore guard Markel McClendon with 13.
Hill got five of his seven baskets on tip-ins or stick-backs following offensive rebounds. He also pulled down 12 rebounds and blocked four shots.
“Our bigs really upped their level of play,” Booher said of Hill and Chames. “We really needed those guys to hit some shots.”
CovCath had a hard time generating offense in the second overtime because three starters had fouled out and senior point guard Nick Ruthsatz was dealing with cramps in his left calf muscle.
Ruthsatz scored all five of his team’s points in the second overtime, but they all came at the free throw line. The Colonels were 0-for-4 from the field in that final four-minute period.
One of the CovCath starters who fouled out was junior forward Bo Schuh, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds when he went to the bench.
“It was a tough loss, but we know this isn’t the end,” Schuh said. “This just motivated us even more to go out and win the region.”
HOLMES 15- 9-17-12-4-15–72
COVCATH 11-13-19-10-4- 5–62
HOLMES (26-5): Bolden 9 6 25, McClendon 4 3 13, Avery 1 1 3, Hill 7 2 16, Chames 6 3 15. Totals: 27 15 72.
COVCATH (26-2): VonHandorf 5 2 13, Schuh 6 2 16, Wichmann 0 1 1, Ruthsatz 6 11 26, Schult 1 1 3, Heppler 1 0 3. Totals: 19 17 62.
3-point goals: H–McClendon 2, Bolden. CC–Ruthsatz 3, Schuh 2, VonHandorf, Heppler.
All-tournament team: Holmes – James Bolden (MVP), Marcus Hill, Quinton Chames. CovCath – Nick Ruthsatz, Cole Von Handorf. Beechwood – Jacob Huff. Holy Cross – Jared Seibert. Covington Latin – Devin Davis.