Covington Catholic stifles Oldham Co. 67-28 to set up state title rematch with Scott Co.
LEXINGTON, Ky.— Covington Catholic is on a quest for its second state title in school history, and the Colonels certainly embraced the ‘defense wins championships’ idealology in their state semifinals game against Oldham County on Saturday night at Rupp Arena.
The Ninth Region Colonels held Oldham County to just 10-of-36 shooting from the field for 28 percent, and Covington Catholic stifled the Eighth Region Colonels 67-28 to advance to the title game of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys Sweet Sixteen® Basketball Tournament on Sunday afternoon.
“I thought our defense was really good,” Covington Catholic head coach Scott Ruthstz said. “That’s been a staple of ours all season long on the defensive end. Scoring the ball is always fun; defending is not so much. But these guys have taken the task of being really good defenders and rebounders. We knew the tempo we wanted to set was really fast and up and down, and we were able to do that. Once we got into the second quarter we were able to extend the lead into halftime and take the game over in the third quarter.”
The Colonels also outrebounded Oldham County 28-14 while scoring 40 points inside the paint.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well, and they kicked our tail on the glass,” Oldham County head coach Coy Zerhusen said.
Covington Catholic (34-4) quickly took control in the first quarter as Iowa signee CJ Fredrick scored six of his nine first quarter points in the first couple minutes of the game to propel the Colonels out to an early 6-0 lead.
Oldham County battled back to make it 7-6 on a pair of free throws by Christian Harper at the 4:41 mark, but CovCath ended the frame on a 7-4 run to hold a 14-10 advantage after the first eight minutes.
The second quarter is when Covington Catholic absolutely dominated and took the wind out of Oldham County’s sails.
Oldham County (31-6) cut the deficit to 20-15 on a layup by Zach Larimore with 5:51 left before halftime, but Oldham would be held scoreless the remainder of the half as the Colonels missed their final seven shots of the second quarter.
Meanwhile the Colonels from northern Kentucky rattled off 13 unanswered to end the frame, a breakaway layup by Aidan Ruthsatz just before the horn pushing Covington Catholic’s lead all the way out to 33-15 at the intermission.
The offensive woes would continue for Oldham County in the third quarter as the Colonels did not end the scoring drought until a couple of free throws by Travis Henderson at the 5:31 mark. The Colonels did not even get a shot off until Jackson Gibson attempted a 3-pointer at the 4:47 mark of the third quarter, and Oldham was unable to score a field goal until a layup by Branden Dewitt trimmed the Colonels’ deficit to 39-19 with 4:22 left in the frame.
Prior to the basket by Dewitt, Oldham County was held without a field goal for a grand total of nine minutes and 29 seconds.
“I think most of it is due to the scouting report, and I give the assistant coaches all the credit in the world for that,” said Ruthsatz of CovCath’s overbearing defense. “We have really detailed scouting reports with tendencies of what players can and can’t do, and we follow that to a tee. The guys all know; the guys all understand their roles.”
Covington Catholic continued to roll in the fourth quarter—a flush by Xavier signee Jake Walter extending the Colonels’ lead out to 53-21 with 5:45 left before Michael Collins came off the bench and drilled a 3-pointer to give the Colonels a 58-23 advantage and force the KHSAA-mandated running clock into effect with 3:21 remaining.
Oldham County was dominated in every facet of the game as the Colonels failed to produce a single scorer in double digits while committing 19 turnovers with just six assists.
“They did a great job of switching defenses, along with their press,” Zerhusen said. “We made a lot of turnovers that we don’t normally do, and I think a lot of was due to their length: putting a hand on the ball or taking away a passing lane.”
Covington Catholic was led in the win by Fredrick with 22 points while Walter added 10 for the Colonels, who finished with a whopping 20 assists on the night.
“The one thing that’s different about this team compared to other teams I’ve had is the unselfishness on offense,” Ruthsatz said. “CJ does tend to score a lot of the points and we run a lot of sets for him, but he is also a very willing passer the same way all these guys are. They’re always willing to give up a good shot for a great shot.”
Covington Catholic will square off against top-ranked Scott County in a rematch of the 2014 state title game—a game that the Colonels won 59-51 in overtime. The Cardinals—who have not lost to a Kentucky school all season—advanced with a 75-46 victory over Warren Central in the first semifinals game on Saturday night.
“Very strong opponent after seeing them in 2014,” Ruthsatz said. “We’re going to begin to prepare for them and get ready to go.”