Covington Catholic shuts down top-ranked Scott County 73-55 for state title
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Four years ago Covington Catholic defeated Scott County 59-51 in overtime for its first ever state title in school history.
The two sides met for all the marbles once again on Sunday afternoon at Rupp Arena, and Covington Catholic dominated on the defensive end by holding Scott County to just 36 percent from the field as the Colonels captured the 2018 KHSAA state championship with a 73-55 victory over the top-ranked Cardinals.
“I’m just so proud of our group,” Covington Catholic head coach Scott Ruthsatz said. “Defensively is where we hang our hat at every year. You can stay in games with defense. If you’ve got a great offensive team but you don’t guard, then you’re just trading points. We have got to guard. We start with that, that’s our foundation, and the offense comes by itself.”
The offense certainly did come for Covington Catholic, especially from senior guard and Iowa signee C.J. Fredrick, who poured in 32 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field in the win.
“I just try to do whatever I can to help my team win, and (Sunday) it was scoring,” Fredrick said. “I just thank God the shots went in.”
Overall Fredrick scored 111 points in the state tournament this year, becoming 11th on the all-time list of scorers in the 101-year history of the tourney. Both his coaches and teammates agree that it was remarkable work ethic that allowed him to get to this point.
“It’s unbelievable,” Ruthsatz said. “Four years ago he was the sixth man on our freshman team. We did not move him up (to varsity). It’s a testament to him, his work ethic and also his parents. His parents just let us mold him into the player that he is today and I give them all the credit in the world. They were so supportive in pushing him to his absolute limit, and that’s what you saw (Sunday).”
“(Fredrick)’s just amazing,” Covington Catholic senior A.J. Mayer said. “He’s a killer. He’s a great player, and he comes to compete at every single practice and every single game…it doesn’t matter what it is. He’s just a competitor.”
Fredrick and Mayer are both players of a Covington Catholic senior class who achieved their ultimate goal of winning a state title after being denied a trip to Rupp in the Ninth Region Championship Game the past two seasons.
“I’m so excited and proud of this team, Fredrick said. “Coming in as sophomores we lost in the regional championship and as juniors we lost in the regional championship. All summer this was the goal, and to finally be standing here as state champions…I’m so proud of this team.”
Covington Catholic (35-4) and Scott County were deadlocked at 11-all midway through the first quarter before back-to-back 3-pointers by Mayer and Fredrick gave the Colonels a 17-11 lead. CovCath held a 18-12 advantage at the end of the first frame.
Scott County (37-2)—who suffered a loss to a Kentucky school for the first time this season—cut the deficit to 24-21 on a layup by Cooper Robb at the 3:34 mark, but CovCath ended the half on an 8-4 run to have a 32-25 lead heading into the locker room.
The Colonels jumped out on the Cardinals to begin the second half.
CovCath went on a 14-5 run to open the third quarter—a three-point play by senior Aiden Ruthsatz extending the Colonels’ lead to 46-30 at the 2:51 mark.
Scott County then came roaring back with an 8-0 scoring spurt as a three-point play by Michael Moreno chipped the Cardinals’ deficit to 46-38 with 1:43 left in the third.
The two teams traded baskets and 3-pointers over the next few possessions before Fredrick drilled a 3-pointer to give Covington Catholic a 54-43 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Scott County narrowed CovCath’s lead to 56-46 on a 3-pointer by Diablo Stewart with 6:27 left, but that Cardinals were never able to whittle the deficit back down to single digits as the Colonels ran away with the victory by ending the game on 17-9 run.
Scott County was led in the loss by Robb with 22 points while Moreno tallied 21 points and eight rebounds. The Cardinals entered the game as the second-best offensive team in the state with 78.3 points per night, but Coach Billy Hicks’ squad struggled to find their usual offensive rhythm against the Colonels.
“It’s a testament to our program,” Coach Ruthsatz said. “It’s a testament to the assistant coaches who put together a great gameplan defensively. We had athletes to execute it, and I thought we matched their athleticism. It really came down to defense and execution.”
“That’s what we take pride in,” Mayer said. “We knew they were a really good offensive team, but we knew we had they key when it comes to defense. We knew we had to keep them off the perimeter, and that’s what we did.”
Scott County netted just 7-of-24 shots from downtown for 29 percent as the Colonels heavily contested nearly every look the Cardinals had at the basket.
Fredrick led CovCath with 32 points while Mayer and Aiden Ruthsatz added 12 and 16 points, respectively, for the Colonels, who led the game for 28 minutes and 47 seconds.
Covington Catholic has been known historically to be a school of athletic excellence, and the Colonels certainly showcased that this season by becoming just the third team in Kentucky history—and second straight after Bowling Green did it last year—to win a state title in both boys’ basketball and football in the same school year.
“This senior class is unreal,” said Mayer, who was also CovCath’s quarterback this past season and is signed to continue his career on the gridiron at the University of Miami (OH). “We love this school, and all we want to do is win. Every single time we come in every single game in football and in basketball we just want to win. You just got to show up every day and do the little things right, and that’s easy when you have really good leaders.”