Covington Catholic, Cooper, Dixie Heights vie for final Northern Kentucky boys' Power 9 top spot

Posted at 10:00 AM, Feb 08, 2017

Covington Catholic stayed atop a top-heavy Northern Kentucky Boys’ Power 9 this week. Red-hot Dixie Heights cracked the top three for the first time this season, Highlands was back in the rankings and Conner entered the top nine for the first time as the postseason tournaments loom later this month.

Here’s a closer look at the final edition of the Northern Kentucky Boys’ Power 9, based on strength of schedule, overall statistical success and our staff observations from the season.

1. Covington Catholic

Record: 22-4 (Last week No. 1)

This week’s opponents: At Dixie Heights Thursday, versus Paul Laurence Dunbar Saturday and at Simon Kenton Tuesday.

The Colonels’ winning streak hit 10 games last week in a 77-37 rout of Beechwood and CovCath maintained control of the top spot in the final Power 9 heading into the postseason. CovCath has won 12 of 13 overall. Senior guard Cole Vonhandorf scored 22 against Beechwood Feb. 3 to lead the Colonels’ in their only game of the week and is the active leading scorer for the Colonels with 18.3 points per game while shooting 55.2 percent from the field. Junior guard Aiden Ruthsatz added 20 and junior forward A.J. Mayer scored 15 against the Tigers. Ruthsatz has scored 13.4 and Mayer has added 11.7 points per game while shooting 50.8 percent with a team-leading 7.6 rebounds per game. Junior center Jake Walter has added 7.2 rebounds and 7.3 points per game.

The Colonels are ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press state poll for a third straight week with a pair first-place votes. CovCath will be tested Thursday on the road against Power 9 No. 3 Dixie Heights and against Region 11 power Paul Laurence Dunbar (19-6).

2. Cooper

Record: 19-4 (Last week No. 2)

This week’s opponents: Versus Newport Central Catholic Wednesday, at Campbell County Friday and versus Dixie Heights Tuesday.

Cooper has enjoyed a full week off from game competition following an easy 84-25 win over St. Henry Feb. 1 to run the Jags' winning streak to five with wins in 15 of 16 overall, but a gauntlet of a week is on tap for the No. 2 team in these rankings. The Jags will begin by hosting No. 5 Newport Central Catholic Wednesday night before visiting No. 4 Campbell County Friday and then hosting No. 3 Dixie Heights Tuesday.

Senior Sean McNeil leads the Jags with 16.5 points per game while shooting 57.6 percent from the field and leading the team with 7.0 rebounds per game. Junior guard Adam Kunkel led the rout of St. Henry last week with 19 points and is second on the team with 16.1 points per game while junior guard Brayden Runion has added 10.5 points per game and senior guard Dante Hendrix has added 7.5 points.

Cooper remained No. 8 in this week’s AP state poll.

RELATED: See who's leading the Ohio boys' Power 9.

3. Dixie Heights

Record: 24-3 (Last week No. 4)

This week’s opponents: Versus Covington Catholic Thursday and at Cooper Tuesday.

The Colonels have won 12 straight and 15 of 16 overall, and finally moved up a spot this week to No. 3 after spending most of the season at No. 4 in the Power 9.

Only one of Dixie’s three losses this season has come at the hands of a local team -- a 61-59 loss at No. 4 Campbell County Dec. 15 -- but the Colonels will be tested mightily this week. Dixie will host top-ranked CovCath Thursday and will visit No. 2 Cooper Tuesday.

Senior guard Hunter Meyer led the Colonels with 14.6 points per game through the first 25 games of the season and senior forward Reed Bradfield was second at 12.7 points per game. Senior guard Cameron Thornberry had added 10.8 points per game and junior guard Tyler Schreck was leading Dixie with 6.3 rebounds per game while Meyer was at 5.4 and Bradfield was at 4.8 boards per game.

4. Campbell County

Record: 21-3 (Last week No. 3)

This week’s opponents: At Pendleton County Wednesday, versus Cooper Friday and at Boone County Tuesday.

The Camels’ five-game winning streak ended Tuesday night in a 64-57 upset loss at the hands of unranked Simon Kenton at home. Campbell County will look to bounce back Wednesday against Region 10 foe Pendleton County before hosting No. 2 Cooper on Friday. Senior Cole Hegyi led the Camels with 18.7 points per game heading into Tuesday’s loss and senior Garren Bertsch had added 17.0 points per game. Junior forward Tanner Clos was at 8.7 points and junior guard Joel Day had added 6.6 points per game for Campbell County.

The Camels remained at No. 10 in the AP state poll this week.

5. Newport Central Catholic

Record: 17-8 (Last week No. 5)

This week’s opponents: At Cooper Wednesday, at Holmes Friday, versus Cincinnati Roger Bacon Saturday and at Bellevue Monday.

The defending 9th region champions and 2016 state semifinalists have won three straight since falling to Paris in the All “A” Classic state final Jan. 29 in Frankfort and the Breds have won 10 of 11 overall.

But NewCath faces another tough week in what has been a grueling schedule for most of the season. The Breds will compete four times this week, including a visit to No. 2 Cooper Wednesday and a home game Saturday against Cincinnati power and Greater Catholic Co-Ed Central-leading Roger Bacon (15-4).

Junior guard Brennan Hall was leading the Breds with 15.7 points per game heading into last weeks’ 71-40 win over St. Henry and senior guard Luke Moeves had added 11.6 points per game.

6. Walton-Verona

Record: 20-5 (Last week No. 6)

This week’s opponents: At Henry County Wednesday, at St. Henry Friday and at South Oldham Monday.

The Bearcats just continue to win. Walton-Verona has won four straight and 13 of 14 overall. Monday’s game at Region 8 foe South Oldham (21-3) will be the toughest test of the week for the Bearcats.

Sophomore center Dieonte Miles led the Bearcats with 13.6 points per game through a 46-33 win over Danville at the All “A” Classic Jan. 26 and junior guard Zach Clinkenbeard had added 10.3 points per game and a team-leading 6.9 rebounds.

7. Conner

Record: 13-11 (Last week unranked)

This week’s opponents: Versus Holmes Tuesday.

The Cougars have won five straight and enter the Power 9 for the first time this season.

Senior forward Spencer Hemmerich entered Tuesday’s 78-58 win over Grant County leading Conner with 20.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Senior guard Travis Connley was second on the team with 12.8 points per game and junior guard Tanner Craddock had added 10.5 for the Cougars.

8. Lloyd

Record: 17-10 (Last week No. 8)

This week’s opponents: Versus Highlands Friday.

Lloyd fell 60-49 at No. 6 Walton-Verona Tuesday night, but the Juggernauts have still won three of their last four games.

Three reliable scorers have paced Lloyd this season, led by senior forward Sterling Hamilton at 15.1 points per game though 23 games. Senior guard Derrick Cipollone and sophomore guard Devion McClendon have also been double-digit scorers this season for Lloyd.

9. Highlands (Last week unranked)

Record: 12-13

This week’s opponents: At Lloyd Friday and at Holy Cross Monday.

The Bluebirds are back in the Power 9 after two straight wins last week. Senior center Kyle Finfrock led the Birds with 14.5 points per game entering a 57-35 win over Ludlow on Monday and senior guard Bryce Traylor was second at 8.6 points per game. Finfrock was also leading the Bluebirds with 9.9 rebounds per game.

Dropped out: Scott (15-10) and Newport (13-13)