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Lloyd makes CovCath do what the Colonels don’t want to do, but will do, if they want to win

By Dan Weber
NKyTribune sports reporter

You’re not often going to see a Covington Catholic team play zone. The Colonels like to defend in man and pressure everywhere.

But they will go into a zone, as they did Friday against visiting Lloyd Memorial, “whenever we need it to win,” Coach Scott Ruthsatz said with a big grin.

Lloyd’s Jeremiah Isreal eyes one from the free throw line. (Photos by Dale Dawn)

In a game of runs against an energized Lloyd team with the Juggs’ two Division I players, the Colonels, now 15-2, definitely needed it.

Leading just 42-40 with 5:03 left, CovCath not only played zone, but they did what they – and Evan Ipsaro – almost always seem to do. They got the ball to the powerful 190-pound senior and got out of his way.

Twelve points later – 10 by Ipsaro on three driving scores and four-for-four from the free throw line – it was all over but the shouting for a 54-43 win that certainly did not seem like an 11-point margin.

“It was intense,” said Ipsaro, after a 25-point night that saw him hit on nine of 18 from the field, convert all seven free throws with a team-high – and tied for game-high – seven rebounds.

Lloyd’s EJ Walker, at 6-foot-8, goes against CovCath’s tallest player, 6-6 Colin Detzel. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

That the 5-10 ½ Ipsaro – a height both he and his coach agree is just about right – could pull down the same number as Lloyd’s 6-8, 225-pound sophomore EJ Walker, who has recently been invited to visits at Indiana, Purdue and West Virginia with offers from the likes of Xavier, Dayton, Minnesota and Northern Kentucky, puts the senior’s effort into context.

But it wasn’t Walker who Ipsaro was matched up against much of the way, it was Lloyd’s other Division I player, 6-3 senior Jeremiah Israel, already signed with NKU, who acquitted himself with 20 points, including four three-pointers.

On numerous scramble plays, both Ipsaro and Israel were sliding and scrambling for loose balls as if this were a rugby scrum.

“We like to match him (Ipsaro) up against their best player,”Ruthsatz said, “but Israel is a tough matchup for anybody we have.”

What proved not to be such a tough matchup was the rebounding battle between a CovCath team with no starter taller than 6-3 and Lloyd with two D-1 players 6-8 and 6-3. Rebounding with all five guys, the Colonels won that battle 35-22 limiting Lloyd to just two offensive rebounds while CovCath grabbed 13 on offense.

Evan Ipsaro challenges three Lloyd defenders on a drive to the basket. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

“They play fast, they defend and they have a great point guard,” Walker said after the game after chatting with Ipsaro. “We’ve just got to get better.”

For the game, Walker, whose 4.0 GPA makes him an especially attractive college prospect, scored eight points, leaving Israel the only Jugg in double figures.

Which is where Ipsaro and the Colonels had the edge. Back from a sprained ankle that kept him out of the Highlands game Tuesday, 6-2 junior guard Brady Hussey played as if he hadn’t been injured, firing in 15 points while also grabbing seven rebounds.

The region’s best tennis player, Hussey has made a college decision to pursue basketball. And while he would be a threat to win a state tennis title if he concentrated on it, “I don’t play tennis nine months of the year,” he said. And maybe just a month of that is before the spring tournament after playing basketball through March.

That injury that made him miss the Highlands game, Hussey says, “makes you value every moment you get” as he had to sit and watch.

CovCath’s Brady Hussey eyes the basket on his way to a 15-point night. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

“Brady had two good days of practice,” Ruthsatz said. That’s all it took.

After treatment to keep the swelling down and maybe some late-night viewing of the Australian Open, Brady will be back in action at CovCath Saturday night as the Colonels host the state’s top prospect – UK-bound Reed Sheppard – and his North Laurel team.

“That ought to be a good test for us,” Ruthsatz said. “That’s what we want . . . Losing games in January – February even – is not a bad thing.” If, that is, you learn something from it, as he said his team did after their Conner loss last week.

The Colonels did manage to learn one thing on this night without losing: Play zone even when you don’t want to if you have to. That’s how you get tournament-ready when a loss will send you home.

LLOYD MEMORIAL 13 10 12 8—43

LLOYD MEMORIAL (9-7): Collins 3-2-0-8, King 2-0-2-6, Sebastian 0-0-0-0, Walker 3-0-2-8, Israel 5-4-6-20, Blaavkar 0-0-0-0, Riley 0-0-0-0, Cooley 0-0-1-1, TOTALS: 13-6-11-43.
COVINGTON CATHOLIC: Ipsaro 9-0-7-25, A. McGillis 0-0-0-0, K. McGillis 1-0-2-4, Stewart 0-0-0-0, Johnson 1-0-1-3, Hussey 6-2-1-15, Link 1-0-0-2, Detzel 1-0-0-2, A. Jones 1-0-1-3, TOTALS: 20-2-12-54.

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