Covington Catholic rolls to Kentucky Boys Sweet 16 championship

CJ Fredrick scores 32, wins tourney MVP

LEXINGTON — CJ Fredrick was a long way away from freshman basketball Sunday afternoon.

The Iowa recruit closed his high-school basketball career at Covington Catholic with 32 points to lead the Colonels past Scott County, the No. 1 team in the final Associated Press Kentucky boys’ basketball state rankings, 73-55, in the Boys Sweet 16 final at Rupp Arena.

Fredrick was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player and his team claimed its second state basketball title, becoming the first Ninth Region team to win a second state championship in boys’ basketball. The state No. 2 Colonels also won in 2014.   

“It’s so special,” Fredrick said. “We all came together and had one goal and it was to win a state championship. To just be able to smile and hug them, my brothers, I’m not going to forget this moment.”   

It was a long road for Fredrick, who was not a starter as a freshman at CovCath.

“As a freshman, I was not a basketball player,” Fredrick said. “The coaches and me came together. This is the game I love. This is what I wanted to do.”

The Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year did what he wanted pretty much all weekend. He scored 22 Saturday in a 67-28 rout of Oldham County in the semifinals. He had scored 25 in the Sweet 16 opener on Thursday, a 71-47 win over Apollo, and 32 Friday against Fern Creek in the quarterfinals.

“CJ is special,” CovCath coach Scott Ruthsatz said. “He’s a special talent. He’s a kid that if you want to write a book, CJ is the one to write about. He didn’t start on our freshman team.  He grew a little bit, but his dedication is unsurpassed. That’s a kid that just went with his roles and followed his roles from sophomore year to now here we are, the best player on the floor.”

The state-finals performance was one for the ages.

“CJ is a beast,” said senior guard Aiden Ruthsatz. “I’ve been with him since he was a freshman. The work he has put in to make himself the best player in the state right now, it’s crazy. He accepted his role and he dominated this weekend.”   

Covington Catholic also became the third school to win state titles in football and basketball in the same school year. Louisville Trinity did it in 2011-2012 and Bowling Green did it last year. 

“It feels great to win two,” said AJ Mayer, CovCath senior guard and starting quarterback on the football team. “It felt amazing. It was the same in football. You just have to take it all in and enjoy it.”

Just like in the Class 5A football state final that CovCath won 49-13 over Madison Southern, the Colonels were all over Scott County early on Sunday. CovCath led by as many as nine points, 30-21, in the second quarter and led 32-25 at halftime.

The Colonels dominated the early going in the second half as well and led 46-30 midway through the third. Scott County answered with an 8-0 run to close to within eight at 46-38, but Fredrick closed the third with fall-away trey from the top of the key for a 54-43 lead heading into the final period.

“He’s unreal,” said Mayer. “He’s the best player in the state, no doubt. I love the guy. He comes to the gym every single day and he has the attitude that he wants to win. That’s why he’s such a great competitor and that’s why we’re coming away with a ring this year.”

Aiden Ruthsatz added 16 points for CovCath, including 14 in the second half. Mayer, a Miami football recruit, added 12 with eight rebounds and senior center Jake Walter, a Xavier recruit, added six points with five rebounds.

As good as the Colonels were on offense, the defense just smothered the Cardinals. Scott County made only 18 of 50 shots in the game while the Colonels made 21 of 33. CovCath outrebounded Scott County 28-22.

“Defense wins championships and this is it,” Scott Ruthsatz said. “Offensively, we made some shots, but if we don’t stop them and rebound, we’re in trouble. Let’s face it, Scott County does a hell of a job rebounding the ball on the offensive end. As long as we could eliminate that and eliminate second-chance points, we felt pretty good about it.”

Scott and Aiden Ruthsatz enjoyed the added benefit of a father-son state-title run.

“That is special,” Scott Ruthsatz said. “I don’t have enough words … a lot of emotions. I got two more sons, so coming up there will be eight solid years of Ruthsatz basketball. It’s special. These are opportunities most fathers and sons don’t get to enjoy.”

Aiden matched the state title his older brother Nick won as a senior in 2014.

“It feels great,” Aiden Ruthsatz said. “All the work we put in definitely means a lot to the community and all the crazies that show out and our families. It feels great.”  

CovCath also beat Scott County, 59-51, March 23, 2014, when the Colonels won the school’s first state title. Now they’re the first two-time state champ from the Ninth Region.

 “The Ninth Region is well-represented the last few years without us being here,” Scott Ruthsatz said. “You start back with the Holmes team in 2013, us in 2014, NewCath, Cooper obviously, and us. The basketball is strong up there. We take it serious. We’re finally getting some recognition.”

SEE box score.

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