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Top teams in Northern Kentucky boys Power 9 basketball ranking to face off this week

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Posted at 10:00 AM, Jan 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-18 11:58:54-05

Cooper maintained the top spot in this week’s Northern Kentucky Boys’ Power 9, but a battle with No. 2 Covington Catholic looms tonight for the Jaguars. The highly anticipated matchup at CovCath leads off a host of games this week matching Power 9 teams that could lead to a shakeup.

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

1. Cooper

Record: 14-3 (Last week: 1)       

This week’s opponents: At Covington Catholic Wednesday, versus Boone County Friday and at Conner Tuesday.

Cooper’s winning streak stands at 10, including eight straight without leading scorer, senior Sean McNeil. But a date with No. 2 Covington Catholic looms Wednesday for the Jags.

Junior guards Adam Kunkel and Brayden Runion each scored 16 points against Holmes Jan. 13 at the St. Elizabeth Healthcare Bluegrass-Buckeye Charity Classic at Northern Kentucky University. Kunkel has averaged 16.2 points per game, good for second on the team behind McNeil. Runion averages 9.3 points per game for the Jags, including 16 against Boone County. McNeil, who averaged 17.6 points and 8.1 rebounds through nine games, is out with an injury.

Cooper, up one spot at No. 9 in the latest Associated Press Kentucky state poll, will follow Wednesday’s big game at CovCath with games against in-county rivals, Boone County and Conner.

RELATED: See this week's Ohio boys Power 9.

2. Covington Catholic

Record: 15-4 (Last week: 2)

This week’s opponents: Versus Cooper Wednesday, versus Ryle Saturday, versus Campbell County Monday.

The Colonels rolled to a 69-41 win over Newport Central Catholic Jan. 13 at NKU behind 30 points from junior forward AJ Mayer, 15 from senior guard Cole Vonhandorf and 13 from junior guard Aiden Ruthsatz. That trio also helped CovCath get past Dayton (Ohio) Dunbar, 70-68, Jan. 15 at the Flying to the Hoop event in Dayton. Mayer scored 26, Ruthsatz scored 20 and Vonhandorf added 14 for the Colonels who have maintained a high level of play without junior guard CJ Frederick, their leading scorer at 21.9 points per game through the first 11 games of the season. Frederick has an injury and will likely remain out for several weeks.

Vonhandorf has averaged 16.8 points per game, Ruthsatz has scored 11.9 and Mayer has added 11.1 points per game with a team-leading 7.4 rebounds. Junior center Jake Walter has added 7.0 rebounds per game.

Despite the two wins, the Colonels fell to No. 4 in the AP state poll with three first-place votes after debuting last week at No. 2. They’ll follow Wednesday’s game against Cooper with a Saturday tilt against Ryle and another big matchup with Power 9 No. 3 Campbell County Monday at CovCath on Monday.

RELATED: Take a look at last week's Northern Kentucky boys Power 9.

3. Campbell County

Record: 17-1 (Last week: 3)

This week’s opponents: At Scott Friday, at Covington Catholic Monday, versus Montgomery County Tuesday.

Tuesday night’s 83-60 win over No. 9 Highlands was the Camels’ 15th straight win and Campbell County has only been played within 10 points twice in that span -- a 51-59 win over No. 4 Dixie Heights Dec. 15 and a 62-60 win at Conner Jan. 13.

The Camels’ biggest games of the season to date will be at No. 5 Scott Friday and at No. 2 Covington Catholic Monday. Senior Cole Hegyi, who was averaging 19.5 points per game heading into Tuesday’s game, scored 19 against Highlands. Second-leading scorer, senior Garren Bertsch, led all scorers with 21. Bertsch’s average was at 18.1 points entering Tuesday’s game.

Campbell County is ranked No. 8 in the AP state poll with one first-place vote, up one spot from last week.

4. Dixie Heights

Record: 15-3 (Last week: 5)

This week’s opponents: At Conner Wednesday, at Highlands Friday, versus West Jessamine at East Jessamine Saturday and at Lloyd Tuesday.

The Colonels outlasted Scott, 55-50, Jan. 13 at NKU and leaped back over the Eagles for the No. 4 spot. Dixie has won three straight and six of seven overall.

Senior guard Hunter Meyer leads the Colonels with 15.9 points per game and senior forward Reed Bradfield is second at 13.2 points per game. Senior guard Cameron Thornberry has added 11.8 points per game and junior guard Tyler Schreck leads Dixie with 6.4 rebounds per game while Meyer has added 5.3 boards per game. The hot Colonels will be tested by a gauntlet of four games in seven days this week, all of them away from home.

5. Scott

Record: 13-5 (Last week: 4)

This week’s opponents: Versus Campbell County Friday.

A six-game winning streak ended against Dixie, but Scott has won eight of 10 overall and the Eagles get a shot at No. 3 Campbell County Friday night at home before a week-long break.

Senior Jake Ohmer continued his impressive play with 20 points against Dixie Heights. Ohmer has averaged 26.8 points per game this season while shooting 54 percent from the field and leading the team with 8.0 rebounds per game. Jake’s younger brother, sophomore Chad Ohmer, has added 9.7 points per game while junior Nelson Perrin has scored 9.6 points per game, including 12 against Dixie.

6. Walton-Verona

Record: 13-4 (Last week: 7)

This week’s opponents: At Boone County Wednesday, versus Williamstown Tuesday.

The Bearcats cruised to the 8th Region All “A” Classic title last week with a 68-30 win over Eminence Jan. 12 in the semifinals and a 53-33 win over Gallatin County Jan. 14 in the final at Walton-Verona and have surged ahead one spot to No. 6.

That ran the Bearcats’ winning streak to six straight with wins in 11 of their last 12 since a 2-3 start to the season.

Sophomore center Dieonte Miles led the Bearcats with 12.8 points per game and junior guard Zach Clinkenbeard has added 10.0 points per game and a team-leading 6.4 rebounds.

7. Lloyd

Record: 11-6 (Last week: 8)

This week’s opponents: Versus St. Henry Wednesday at 9th Region All “A” Tournament quarterfinals at Ludlow, versus TBA Friday at 9th Region All “A” Tournament semifinals at Ludlow, versus TBA Saturday at 9th Region All “A” Tournament finals at Ludlow and versus Dixie Heights Tuesday.

Two straight wins have vaulted the Juggernauts into the No. 7 spot this week, but Lloyd could be entering its most difficult stretch of the year with the possibility of playing four games in seven days should the team continue winning at the All “A” Classic. Then a date with No. 4 Dixie Heights awaits Monday.

Three double-digit average scorers pace Lloyd, led by senior forward Sterling Hamilton at 14.3 points per game. Sophomore guard Devion McClendon has added 11.1 points and senior guard Derrick Cipollone has also added 11.1 points per game. Luke Tolle is the Juggernauts’ top rebounder at 9.0 boards per game and Sterling has added 7.0.

8. Newport Central Catholic

Record: 8-7 (Last week: 6)

This week’s opponents: Versus Newport Friday at 9th Region All “A” Tournament semifinals at Ludlow, versus TBA Saturday at 9th Region All “A” Tournament finals at Ludlow and at Highlands Tuesday.

The defending 9th region champions and 2016 state semifinalists moved into the 2017 9th Region All “A” Classic semifinals with an 86-60 win over Dayton Tuesday and will hook up with Newport for a spot in the finals on Friday. The Breds, who have hovered around the .500 mark all season against a grueling schedule, won two of three last week with a 71-56 win over Beechwood Jan. 11 and a 69-41 loss to No. 2 CovCath Jan. 13 at NKU.

Four of NewCath’s seven losses have come at the hands of Power 9 teams, including early season losses to No. 7 Lloyd, No. 4 Dixie Heights and No. 3 Campbell County. Junior guard Brennan Hall led the Breds with 16.6 points per game entering Tuesday’s contest and senior guard Luke Moeves had added 10.6 points per game.

9. Highlands

Record: 9-10 (Last week: unranked)

This week’s opponents: Versus Dixie Heights Friday, versus Newport Central Catholic Tuesday.

The Bluebirds had won four straight and six of seven entering Tuesday’s loss at No. 3 Campbell County and Highlands enters the Power 9 for the first time at No. 9.

The Birds could solidify their spot on the list with a win or two this week with No. 4 Dixie Heights and No. 8 NewCath on the schedule. Senior center and leading scorer Kyle Finfrock scored nine Tuesday and had averaged 14.6 points with a team-best 9.9 rebounds entering Tuesday.