By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
UNION – A fellow 9th Region head basketball coach said the Cooper Jaguars and Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds “might be 1A and 1B” in terms of region favorites.
Both looked far away from that in Tuesday’s crucial early-season contest. But NewCath (3-0) did enough to pull off its third region win in three tries to start the season, 44-42 here.
“They play hard,” said Grant Brannen, NCC head coach. “You can never think even when you’re up double-figures that they won’t come back on you. To come into Cooper is not easy. But to leave with a ‘W’ is nice.”
Brannen said the bench saved the Thoroughbreds in this contest. He said two seniors in guards Colin Dupont and Brennan Devoto along with freshman center Ben Weyer stepped forward in crucial situations to help the team to victory. Starting guard Michael Bueter and centers Drew McDonald and Jake Schulte battled foul trouble most of the game.
“We just need to be in the right position,” Schulte said. “If we do that, we’ll stay out of foul trouble. We got caught in the wrong position a couple times (Tuesday).”
Both teams did not have their full rosters as players from the football teams will be joining them shortly. The Thoroughbreds won the Class 2A state title Saturday and the Jaguars lost to Bowling Green in the 5A title game. Mac Franzen and Jake Haas will be seeing action soon for NewCath while Tyler Morris, Aaron Morgan and A.J. Collins joining Tim Sullivan’s Jaguars soon.
The leading scorer on both teams scored 10 points. Bueter did it for NewCath and Spencer Holland did it for Cooper. Both teams saw eight different players score. Bueter also had four assists and Zach Pangallo had three. Weyer led the Thoroughbreds with three blocks.
NewCath extended the advantage to 18-11 at one point in the second after Nick Seibert hit a free throw. But the Jaguars cut the margin to 20-19 before Dupont made two free throws to give NewCath a 22-19 halftime advantage.
Cooper cut the margin to one at one point in the third. But NewCath answered when Weyer put in an offensive rebound. The Thoroughbreds led 31-27 entering the final stanza.
NewCath scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to go up 37-27. Seibert had an offensive rebound and jumper and Schulte made a lay-up.
But the Jaguars did not go away quietly. Holland made a three-pointer to trim the margin to 43-40 in the final 20 seconds before Bueter hit a free-throw for NewCath. Cooper guard Shawn McNair made a lay-up as time expired.
NewCath might have put the game away better with a better percentage at the free-throw line. The Thoroughbreds made just 10-of-21 free throws for about 47 percent compared to 11-of-16 for about 69 percent for the Jaguars.
Both teams started out in man-to-man defenses. The Thoroughbreds took a 6-2 lead behind Bueter and Pangallo scores and never trailed the rest of the contest.
The Thoroughbred do not play again until Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. They travel to Boone County in a rematch of the 9th Region title game from last year.