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Boys Basketball Preview: Highly talented returning starters make CovCath top pick in coaches poll

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

After playing in the 9th Region championship game for eight consecutive years, Covington Catholic lost a one-point game to St. Henry in the first round of last year’s region tournament and bowed out with a 24-4 record.

St. Henry was the only local team that beat the Colonels last season and they have their top three scorers returning. That’s why CovCath was voted No. 1 on every ballot in a preseason poll of Northern Kentucky coaches.

CovCath point guard Evan Ipsaro

All three of CovCath’s returning starters – senior center Mitchell Rylee, junior point guard Evan Ipsaro and junior forward Chandler Starks – were among the top 10 players selected in the local coaches poll.

In his first season after transferring to CovCath, Rylee averaged 15.9 points and 8.3 rebounds and shot 68.7 from the field. The 6-foot-8 college prospect also had a good summer on the AAU circuit and accepted a scholarship offer from Miami University of Ohio.

Ipsaro is another transfer student drawing the attention of college recruiters. He averaged 15.8 points, 3.5 assists and shot 57 percent from the field with a team-high 43 3-point goals in his first season with the Colonels.

CovCath coach Scott Rutsatz considers Ipsaro “the most complete player” he’s had since CJ Fredrick, who led the Colonels to the 2018 state championship.

This will be Starks’ third year as a varsity starter. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound forward averaged 11.3 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds last season. Ruthsatz said he’s been working on this outside shooting to help the Colonels spread the floor and use their athleticism.

CovCath has several players coming up from last year’s junior varsity team that will compete for playing time with senior forward Mehki Wilson and junior guard Kascly McGillis, the other returning varsity players.

“Our practices have been extremely competitive and our younger players are really taking the next step in their development,” said Ruthsatz, who has a 280-63 record as CovCath’s head coach.

Here’s a look at the other local teams that made the top 10 in the Northern Kentukcy preason coaches poll.


Will Herald

The Bluebirds became the fifth 9th Region boys basketball team to win a state championship last season with seniors Sam Vinson and Luke Muller leading a high-scoring offense that averaged 82.4 points and 10.6 3-point field goals per game.

Coach Kevin Listerman does have two double-figure scorers returning from that 30-4 team in junior Will Herald (13.3) and senior Zach Barth (10.4). Herald made 102 treys and posted the highest overall field goal percentage (59.6) among the starting players last season.

Oliver Harris, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, is the Bluebirds’ other returning starter. He averaged 8.2 points and shot 57 percent from the field. Leyton Read is a senior guard whose main responsibility will be distributing the ball on offense.

“The biggest challenge will be finding a defensive interior and rebounding presence,” coach Listerman said. “Cole Kocher and Brody Benke will be counted on to anchor the paint for us.” 


Kiernan Geraci

Dixie Heights coach Roddy Stainforth said his players spent the off-season getting faster and stronger so they could build on the gains they made last year when the Colonels made it to the 9th Region semifinals and posted a 21-6 record.

The leading scorer on that team is one of three returning starters. Senior forward Kiernan Geraci averaged 14 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting 60.4 percent from the field. He’s closing in on the 1,000-point mark in career scoring.

The Colonels’ other senior veterans are point guard Jay Flynn and 6-foot-6 center Billy Wogenstahl, who averaged 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 64.1 percent from the field.

“We’re working hard towards earning a spot in the 9th Region (title contenders) conversation,” said coach Stainforth. “We’ll continue to rely on our unselfishness to fuel our success.”


Junior guards Landen Hamilton and Ayden Lohr are the top returning players on the Conner team that was 9th Region runner-up last season and finished with a 17-7 record in Matt Ottte’s fifth year as head coach.

The Cougars won five straight games before losing to Highlands in the region final. During that six-game stretch, Hamilton and Lohr were double-figure scorers three times. In the region championship game, Lohr netted 18 points and Hamilton had 17.

Hamilton ended the season with a 10.9 scoring average and made 46.6 percent of his 3-point attempts. Lohr averaged 8.6 points and shot 41.9 percent from behind the arc for the late-surging Cougars.


Aydan Hamilton

Over the last eight years, Campbell County has won 191 games, played in six 10th Region championship finals and claimed four region titles under coach Aric Russell, who took the 2019 team to the state semifinals.

The Camels are looking for continue that run of success this season with junior forwards Aydan Hamilton and Eric Davis and junior guard Jake Gross leading the way. They all played significant roles on last year’s 18-9 region runner-up team.

Hamilton was the second leading scorer with a 16.1 average and Davis nearly averaged a double-double with 10.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Gross contributed 6.4 points and 3.3 rebounds as one of the floor leaders.   


The Tigers will have a new look this season without Scotty Draud, who set a 9th Region career scoring record with 3,128 points during his five-year varsity career. Beechwood won 20 or more games the last three seasons with him in the lineup.

Draud was one of four senior starters on last year’s 23-6 team. The top returning player is junior guard Cameron Boyd, who averaged 8.8 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range.

Brady Moore and Mitchell Berger are among the returning players who won’t join the team until football season is completed. Coach Erik Goetz is counting on players coming up from last year’s 24-1 junior varsity team to be major contributors.


Jacob Meyer

Casey Sorrell will start his head coaching career at Holy Cross with a lineup that’s loaded with talent, including junior guard Jacob Meyer, who made a commitment with Western Kentucky University last summer.

Meyer is a multi-talented player who led the 9th Region in scoring with a 25.2 average that ranked 13th in the state. He also led the Indians to a 14-11 record and their first appearance in the 9th Region tournament since 2018.

Junior guard Javier Ward is the team’s quickest player and 6-foot-10 junior center Sam Gibson will be an intimidating presence in the paint. The top returning seniors are guard Zach Arlinghaus and forwards Ryan Pulsfort and Dylan Arlinghaus.  


The Jaguars shot 38 percent from the field and lost eight games by margins of 14 points or more last season. They finished with a 5-13 record and didn’t get to the 9th Region playoffs for the first time since 2014. 

Even though the top two scorers graduated, coach Tim Sullivan expects to be more successful this year with a bigger and more experienced lineup led by senior guards Montana Phillips and Blake Berry and forwards Caleb Brooks and Gavin Lutz.

“With added size and experience, look for a more confident team who wants to play fast,” Sullivan said. “Our ability to play different tempos will help improve our overall production on offense and give us the ability to play different styles of defense.” 


Lloyd coach Michael Walker expects the Juggernauts to be “the surprise team” in the 9th Region with the players he has back from a 7-11 season that got off to a bad start due to two weeks of COVID-19 cancellations. 

The team did win five straight games late in the season with returning players Zaire Monroe and Garrett Vogelpohl each getting double-figure scoring totals in three of the victories.

Monroe finished the season with a team-high 11.7 scoring average and Vogelpohl ended up shooting 57 percent from the field. Lloyd’s other returning players include guards Jeremiah Israel and Ryan Davis, who had a combined average of 15.2 points per game.    


The only senior in Scott’s starting lineup last season was leading scorer Grant Proffitt, who was named 10th Region Player of the Year. That means coach Steve Fromeyer has a team loaded with varsity experience that could develop into a contender for the region title. 

The Eagles’ top returning player is 6-foot-5 senior Cameron Patterson. Last season, he averaged 13.2 points and 8 rebounds while shooting 54 percent from the field on a team that posted a 15-10 record.

Senior point guard Mitchell Minor and juniors Brayden Howell, Dasani Lane and Nolan Hunter, who each averaged seven points per game last season, will likely fill out the starting lineup.   

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