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Prep Sports Notebook: CovCath coach taking team to state tournament after record-setting sixth region title

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Scott Ruthsatz broke a five-way tie for most 9th Region boy basketball championships won by a coach when his Covington Catholic team defeated Dixie Heights in the title game last Tuesday to earn a berth in this week’s “Sweet 16” state tournament at Rupp Arena.

Ruthsatz has now won six 9th Region championships in his 11 seasons at CovCath to move to the top of the list. The coaches with five boys region titles include Ken Shields of Highlands, Reynolds Flynn of Holmes, Mote Hils of CovCath and Stan Arnzen of Newport.

CovCath has won six 9th Region basketball titles under head coach Scott Ruthsatz. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

Ruthsatz also became the first coach to take his team to nine 9th Region boys region finals. Holmes reached the finals eight times under Flynn.

CovCath teams have compiled a 308-67 record under Ruthsatz for a 82.1 winning percentage. The program’s only coach with more wins was Dan Tieman, who had a 313-146 in 15 seasons when he retired in 2000.

The Colonels have a 10-2 record in state tournament games under Ruthsatz. His teams won state titles in 2014 and 2018, made it to the semifinals in 2015 and lost in the first round in 2019. CovCath was also one of the teams in the 2020 state tournament that was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.

This year’s team returns to the state tournament with a 28-4 record going into a first-round game against Ashland Blazer at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Rupp Arena.

Ashland (26-5) won a home game between the two teams, 70-61, on Jan. 29. The Colonels have reeled off 10 consecutive victories since then by an average margin of 22.5 points.

The only senior starter for CovCath is 6-foot-8 forward Mitchell Rylee, a Miami University of Ohio recruit and Mr. Kentucky Basketball candidate. He’s averaging 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while shooting 70.9 percent (212 of 299) from the field.

The Colonels’ leading scorer is junior point guard Evan Ipsaro with a 21.7 average. Ashland has three seniors with double-figure scoring averages in its starting lineup — Ethan Sellars (18.7), Colin Porter (17.4) and Cole Villers (13.9).

In the Tomcats’ previous win over CovCath, those three seniors scored a combined total of 54 points and made eight of their team’s 10 3-point goals. The Colonels made just two treys in that game.

Carl Wenderoth was one high school coach I’ll always remember

The first boys high school basketball team I covered in the Kentucky state tournament was the Grant County Braves coached by Carl Wenderoth in 1979.

I was a young sports reporter for the Grant County News and Boone County Leader weekly newspapers that season and became friends with Wenderoth, who passed away on March 6 at the age of 87. Reading his obituary unleashed a flood of memories for me.

Carl Wenderoth

Wenderoth was a friendly, good-natured man who was fun to be around. After his Braves team won the 1979 8th Region championship game, he donned a Native American war bonnet amid the celebration and I took a photo of him that ended up on the front page of the county’s weekly newspaper.

That was the only region title Wenderoth won as Grant County’s head coach, but he recorded most of his 500 career wins with that program. Of course, he did have a few lean years. On one of the preseason forms he sent me, his coach’s comment was, “If I had a big man, I don’t know what I’d do.”

Wenderoth concluded his head coaching career with three seasons at Scott High School. His first two teams were eliminated in the district playoffs, but the Eagles won the 1989 9th Region tournament and finished with a 20-15 record.

Six of the seven games in that region tournament were decided by nine points or less. In the championship game, Scott took the lead with 34 seconds left and upset Holy Cross, 68-62, to win the school’s first region basketball title.

Wenderoth, who also coached high school baseball and golf during his carer, was inducted into the Northern Kentucky High School Athletic Directors Hall of Fame along with the ones at Grant County and Scott high schools.

I will always remember him telling me the secret to winning a post-season basketball tournament — “You gotta get the draw, gotta get some calls and gotta take care of the ball.”

Cooper girls basketball team has former player in NCAA tournament

Sophomore guard Liz Freihofer and junior forward Whitney Lind were the Cooper girls basketball players named to the state all-tournament team after leading the Jaguars to the semifinals in their first “Sweet 16” appearance last week.

The Cooper girls can watch one of the program’s former players, Lexi Held, in the NCAA tournament on Wednesday. Held is a senior guard for DePaul that will play Dayton in one of the first-four games at a site and time to be determined.

Held is averaging 12.8 points and a team-high 5.3 assists for the 22-10 Blue Demons, who have the highest points-per-game average (88.3) in NCAA Division I women’s basketball. DePaul also ranks sixth in assists with 18.1 per game.

Ryle graduate Maddie Scherr is a sophomore guard on the 20-11 Oregon women’s team that received a No. 5 seed for the NCAA tournament and will play Belmont in an opening round game on Saturday in Nashville.

Highlands graduate Jeff Walz is head coach of the 25-4 Louisville women’s team that’s the No. 1 seed in the same region as Oregon. Louisville (25-4) will play University of Albany in a first-round game on Friday in Louisville.



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One Comment

  1. Liam says:

    … the 20-11 Oregon women’s team that received a No. 5 seed for the NCAA tournament and will play Belmont in an opening round game on Saturday in Nashville.

    Knoxville, not Nashville.

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