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CovCath basketball team continues run of success with new combination in starting lineup

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

The new lineup Covington Catholic boys basketball coach Scott Ruthsatz has put together this season is carrying on the program’s winning tradition.

Even though four of the top six scorers on last year’s 9th Region championship team graduated, the Colonels are off to a 7-1 start that includes an impressive 81-65 win over Highlands on Saturday in Fort Thomas.

CovCath junior Mitchell Rylee makes a strong move to the basket in the victory over Highlands on Saturday. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

The final margin in that victory was a bit surprising since CovCath was No. 1 and Highlands was No. 2 in the Northern Kentucky preseason coaches poll. In last year’s region final, the Colonels narrowly defeated the Bluebirds, 59-54, to take the title for the third consecutive year.

One reason for CovCath’s continued success is the addition of 6-foot-7 junior post player Mitchell Rylee, who transferred from Beechwood. He posted a double-double in Saturday’s win with team-high totals of 23 points and 14 rebounds.

The Colonels’ two returning starters also put up impressive numbers. Sophomore forward Chandler Starks finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Senior guard Donovan Stocks contributed 19 points and five rebounds.

With those three players leading the way, CovCath shot 58.8 percent (30 of 51) from the field and won the battle on the boards by a commanding 37-13 margin.

CovCath’s other two starters – sophomore point guard Evan Ipsaro and junior guard Walker Horn – had combined totals of 12 points and 13 assists. Ipsaro is a transfer student who played for New Richmond in Ohio last season. 

Highlands senior Sam Vinson did take game-high scoring honors with 25 points, but he was limited to 11 points in the first three quarters by CovCath’s aggressive defense that applied full-court pressure for the most of the game.

Chandler Starks scored 11 points in each half for CovCath. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

The Bluebirds ended up shooting 55.3 percent (26 of 47) on their home court with just four assists and 10 turnovers.

CovCath took control of the game with a 17-0 run during the first quarter that ended with the Colonels holding a 25-9 lead. Highlands cut the margin to 38-27 at halftime and pulled to within eight points, 42-34, on a driving basket by Zach Barth early in the third quarter.

The Colonels responded by scoring eight straight points to regain a double-digit lead and pushed the margin to 20 points, 62-42, when Starks made his only 3-point basket early in the fourth quarter.

Vinson scored nine of the Bluebirds’ last 12 points to reduce the final margin to 16, but it was still a bitter loss on their home court.

CovCath has now won 27 straight games against Northern Kentucky opponents. Beechwood was the last local team that beat the Colonels, 57-53, in the 2019 35th District final.

Ranked No. 4 in last week’s Associated Press state media poll, CovCath will take a four-game winning streak into a home game against Cincinnati St. Xavier (9-2) on Tuesday.  The Colonels will visit Walton-Verona (7-1) on Wednesday and finish out the month with a home game against Conner (6-1) on Saturday.

HIGHLANDS    9  18  13  25 – 65
COVCATH      25  13  19  24 – 81

HIGHLANDS (3-3): Vinson 10 3 25, Barth 4 0 8, Muller 3 2 10, Harris 4 1 9, Herald 2 0 6, Kocher 2 1 5, Benke 1 0 2. Totals: 26 7 65.

COVCATH (7-1): Stocks 5 6 19, Ipsaro 2 5 9, Horn 1 0 3, Rylee 11 1 23, Starks 9 3 22, Wilson 2 0 4, McHale 0 1 1. Totals: 30 16 81.

3-point goals: H – Vinson 2, Muller 2, Herald 2. CC – Stocks 3, Horn, Starks.

CovCath guard Evan Ipsaro puts up a one-handed shot on a fast break. (Photo by Dale Dawn)


Zach Barth of Highlands drives the lane for a scoop shot. (Photo by Dale Dawn)


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