A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

CovCath advances to boys state championship game after record-setting victory over Oldham County

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

LEXINGTON — Most of the Covington Catholic basketball team’s victories this season have been by double-digit margins, but the Colonels raised their wow factor to a new level in the semifinals of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16 boys state tournament on Saturday at Rupp Arena.

In the most dominating state tournament performance in the history of the program, CovCath defeated Oldham County, 67-28, and advances to the state championship game for the second time in the last five years.

CovCath senior center Jake Walter arches a hook shot over an Oldham County defender. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

CovCath now has a 15-9 overall record in state tournament games and the current players set team records for widest winning margin (39) and fewest points allowed (28) in the victory over Oldham County, a team that was No. 9 in the latest Litkenhous statewide power rankings.

“Obviously this was a great game for us, defensively and offensively,” said CovCath senior guard C.J. Fredrick. “But we’re here to win a state championship and this game is over with.”

CovCath (34-4) will play Scott County (37-1) in the state final at 2 p.m. Sunday. The same two teams met in the 2014 title game and the Colonels won, 59-52, in overtime to claim their first state championship.

Scott County defeated Warren Central, 75-46, in the other semifinal game on Saturday. The Cardinals shot 58 percent from the field and scored 20 points off turnovers in that win.

“They’ve had a fantastic season with one loss,” said CovCath coach Scott Ruthsatz. “They’re really aggressive defensively, so we have to make sure we address that in some of our (offensive) sets that we’re going to run.”

In their semifinal game on Saturday, the Colonels’ shot 67.6 percent (25 of 37) from the field while limiting Oldham County to 27.8 percent (10 of 36). The other impressive stats were CovCath forcing 19 turnovers on defense and finishing with a 28-14 rebounding advantage.

Over the last three quarters, Oldham County made only six field goals and had single-digit scoring totals in each period.

“We just couldn’t get anything going (on offense),” said Oldham County coach Coy Zerhusen. “You’ve got to play well in a game like that and against a team like that, and we just didn’t shoot the ball well enough.”

CovCath led from start to finish. Fredrick scored the first six points in the game and ended up with a game-high 22. He now has a total of 79 points in his team’s three state tournament victories this week.

Oldham County got the first basket in the second quarter to pull within two points, 14-12, but CovCath steadily pulled away after that, taking a 33-15 lead into the halftime break.

CovCath senior guard C.J. Fredrick has scored 79 points in three state tournament games, hitting 23 of 35 field goal attempts. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

CovCath shot 61 percent (11 of 18) from the field in the first half with 17 points coming off turnovers. Six players had at least one field goal at that point. Fredrick was the team’s offensive leader with 13 points and three assists during the first 16 minutes.

After limiting Oldham County to five points in the second quarter, CovCath put the game away with a 14-6 scoring run in the third quarter that opened up a 47-21 lead. Fans started heading for the exit before the fourth quarter began. The ones who stayed saw CovCath push its lead to 53-21 before pulling its starters with 5:42 left.

Coach Ruthsatz liked the fact that the Colonels had 20 assists on 25 field goals in the game.

“I’d say the one thing about this team that’s different from the other teams I’ve had is the unselfishness on offense,” the coach said. “They’re always willing to give up a good shot for a great shot.”

CovCath and Scott County have not played each other since the 2014 state championship game. This season, the two state finalists defeated four common opponents — Ballard, Madison Central, Lexington Catholic and Holy Cross. Scott County’s one loss was to Cincinnati Moeller, 60-41, on Dec. 26 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. A few weeks before that, CovCath won a home game against Moeller, 58-53.

Coach Zerhusen, who played at Scott County under long-time coach Billy Hicks, is looking forward to seeing how his former team does against CovCath.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Zerhusen said. “It’ll be fun to watch, two good teams and two good coaches. I think we’ll see a good one.”

COVCATH                  14  19   14  20  — 67
OLDHAM COUNTY   10    5    6     7  — 48

COVCATH (34-4): A.J. Mayer 1 5 7, Walter 4 2 10, Fredrick 8 5 22, Ruthsatz 3 1 7, Nowak 1 0 2, L. Thelen 1 0 2, Deere 1 0 3, Fleek 2 0 4, Collins 1 0 3, Davin 1 0 2, M. Mayer 1 0 2, N. Thelen 1 1 3. Totals: 25 13 67.

OLDHAM COUNTY (31-6): Henderson 1 2 4, Larimore 2 0 4, Harper 3 2 8, Brewer 0 1 1, Gibson 1 0 2, Benson 1 2 4,  Teague 0 1 1, Dewitt 2 0 4. Totals: 10 8 28.

3-pointers: CC — Fredrick, Ruthsatz, Deere, Collins.

WHITAKER BANK/KHSAA SWEET 16 BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
Wednesday — Upper bracket
Corbin 50, Estill County 40
Scott County 54, Louisville Trinity 53
Warren Central 68, Pulaski Southwestern 44
Pikeville 72, John Hardin 69 3-OT
Thursday — Lower bracket
Campbell County 82, University Heights 65
Fern Creek 69, Boyd County 67 OT
Oldham County 65, McCracken County 58
Covington Catholic 71, Owensboro Apollo 47
Friday
Scott County 73, Corbin 62
Warren Central 74, Pikeville 57
Oldham County 56, Campbell County 55
Covington Catholic 66, Fern Creek 58
Saturday
Scott County 75, Warren Central 46
Covington Catholic 67, Oldham County 28
Sunday
Championship: Scott County (37-1) vs. Covington Catholic (34-4), 2 p.m.

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