By Dan Wright
NEWPORT, Ky. – Newport Central Catholic capped off a dominating run through the 36th District with another dominating performance, beating Highlands, 65-36, in the district championship game Friday night at NewCath.
Friday was the NewCath’s 21st straight victory, and Thoroughbreds have won their seven games against district opponents by an average of just over 40.5 points per game.
Now, the Thoroughbreds can focus on the one goal they’ve had all year, winning their first 9th Region title since 2000.
“We just wanted to get to next week and get to the (9th Region) tournament,” said NewCath head coach Ron Dawn. “It’s the thing we’ve been shooting for all year so hopefully we’ll be ready to go next week.”
NewCath has dominated the region nearly as much as it has its district this season, winning its 17 games against 9th Region opponents by an average of 33.8 points per game, with none of those contests being decided by fewer than 15 points.
“They’re in a great rhythm right now and they haven’t lost since before Christmas,” said Highlands head coach Kevin Listerman, whose team will also participate in next week’s 9th Region tournament at the Bank of Kentucky Center. “They’re No. 1, and until someone knocks them off, I have a hard time putting anyone else up there.”
The Bluebirds managed to hang with the Thoroughbreds early, trailing by just two, 9-7, four minutes into the game, but NewCath used its decisive size advantage to go on a 21-4 run over the next eight minutes, opening up a 30-11 lead.
Led by its front line of 6-foot-5 sophomore Ben Weyer, 6-foot-7 junior Drew McDonald, and 6-foot-8 senior Jake Schulte, NewCath scored five stick back baskets while limiting Highlands to just nine total rebounds in the half.
“We got them to miss shots in the first half, we just weren’t able to get the rebounds off the glass,” said Listerman. “When they’re 6-7, 6-8 and then they’ve got guards who can go in and rebound, it causes a lot of problems.”
Schulte was credited for causing the most problems for Highlands throughout the game, being named the tournament’s most valuable player after scoring seven points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and dishing out three assists.
“He’s probably the most versatile player on our team with his length and his ability to block shots and get rebounds,” said point guard Zach Pangallo. “He’s the key to our team.”
McDonald added a game-high 16 points with seven rebounds while Weyer had 15 points and seven rebounds and senior guard Tanner Moeves scored 12.
Weyer and Moeves joined Schulte on the all-tournament team for NewCath.
Junior forward Parker Harris led Highlands with 14 points, including eight in the third quarter that enabled Highlands get to within 15, 45-30. He made the all-tournament team for Highlands along with senior guard Brendan Buten.
NewCath squelched any ideas of a Highlands comeback by holding the Bluebirds to just six points over the final 10 minutes, marking the 15th time this season the Thoroughbreds have held an opponent under 40 points.
Those kinds of feats are secondary, however, to the Thoroughbreds’ main objective of making it through next week’s 9th Region tournament and to the Sweet Sixteen tournament at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
“We’re just going to do what we can to win this 9th Region,” said Schulte. “We’ve been there the last six years and we just want to get down to Rupp. That’s our main goal.”
at NEWCATH 19-18-13-15—65
HIGHLANDS (9-14): Buten 2 0 5, Harris 5 4 14, Cain 1 0 3, Houliston 1 0 2, Hergott 3 0 8, Weyer 1 0 2, Shepherd 0 2 2. Totals 13 6 36.
NEWCATH (28-3): Pangallo 2 0 5, T. Moeves 5 1 13, Schulte 3 1 7, McDonald 8 0 16, Weyer 7 0 15, G. Moeves 1 0 2, Franzen 1 0 3, Verkamp 2 0 4. Totals 29 2 65.
3-pointers: H—Hergott 2, Buten, Cain. N—T. Moeves 2, Pangallo, Weyer, Franzen.
All-Tournament Team: Austin Brockman (Dayton), Zack Poinsett (Bellevue), Ethan Snapp (Newport), Brendan Buten (Highlands), Parker Harris (Highlands), Ben Weyer (NewCath), Tanner Moeves (NewCath). Most Valuable Player: Jake Schulte (NewCath).