G. Michael Graham Photo. The Newport Central Catholic students showed up in full force in Tuesday's 9th Region quarterfinal game against the Holmes Bulldogs. The Bulldogs won 55-50 to end the Thoroughbreds season.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS – It marked a tough end to a great season.
Arguably the two best teams in the 9th Region drew each other in the region quarterfinals and things turned the other direction. The Covington Holmes Bulldogs defeated the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds 55-50 win Tuesday at Northern Kentucky University’s Bank of Kentucky Center in front of a nice crowd.
Holmes improved to 29-2 to move onto the regional semifinals. NewCath (30-3) saw its 18-game winning streak snapped including an 88-85 double-overtime win at Holmes on Feb. 8.
NewCath had not been shooting well entering the tournament and it hurt in the loss. The Thoroughbreds made just 18-of-48 shots for 38 percent including five three-pointers and 9-of-12 free throws for 75 percent.
“They were sagging and leaving us open from 15 feet (out),” said Grant Brannen, NewCath head coach. “We weren’t knocking down shots. Knocking down shots in the end is different than knocking down shots in the first 30 minutes.”
Holmes did not shoot much better making just 16-of-44 shots for 36 percent. But the Bulldogs did make 19-of-30 free-throw tries for 63 percent.
Sophomore James “Beetle” Bolden spearheaded the Bulldog charge with 22 points. He made two three-pointers and 6-of-7 free throws.
“It was a total team effort,” said Jason Booher, Holmes head coach. “Our defense was outstanding. Like I told the guys, it wasn’t going to be another 88-85 double-overtime game. I knew it would be in the 30s, 40s, maybe the 50s. But these guys scrapped and clawed every defensive possession.”
Bolden scored 11 points in that third quarter when Holmes pulled away. The Bulldogs turned a 24-23 advantage into a 35-25 lead with an 11-2 run. Bolden had six points and two assists during the run. The Bulldogs ran their transition offense well during that run.
Sophomore Drew McDonald kept NewCath in the game with 13 of his team-high 19 points in the third quarter. The Thoroughbreds used a 7-0 run to cut the margin to 35-32 in the third before Bolden hit a jumper with three seconds left to make it 37-32 Holmes entering the fourth quarter.
“We knew we had to play really well to beat them,” said Nick Seibert, NewCath forward. “They’re a very good team and we just didn’t execute on our plays. I’m proud of all my teammates and will miss all of them.”
The only other double-digit scorer for either team was NewCath guard Michael Bueter with 12 points. Bueter’s hit three three-pointers in the final two minutes of the game including one at the buzzer. Bueter, Jake Schulte and Bolden all had to sit a good portion of the second half with foul trouble.
The rebounding against a smaller team really hurt NewCath. The Thoroughbreds won that battle just 34-33. Chris Englemon led everyone with 14 rebounds for Holmes.
“If we don’t outrebound or be right there with them, we have no chance to win the game,” Booher said. “They get a lot of scoring on offensive putbacks with those two trees (Schulte and McDonald) in there.”
Both teams recorded 10 offensive rebounds each. McDonald had 11 to record a double-double for NewCath and Schulte had nine.
“We did a good job of limiting them to one shot the first time,” Brannen said. “We were unable to do that this time.”
NewCath did have more assists and blocks than Holmes with 13 and four respectively. Zach Pangallo led NewCath with five assists and Jake Schulte led the Thoroughbreds with two rejections. McDonald added four assists and a block.
Holmes had seven assists and no blocks. Bolden led the Bulldogs with five assists.
The game stayed close in the first half with the foul trouble. It was tied at 10 at halftime and McDonald scored to give the Thoroughbreds a 19-18 halftime advantage.
McDonald scored again to give NewCath a 21-18 lead with 6:29 left in the third quarter. But Bolden scored two buckets in a 6-0 Holmes run to put the Bulldogs up 24-21 with five minutes left.
Both teams struggled in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Bolden hit two free throws to put Holmes up 44-35 with 2:08 remaining.
NewCath did cut the lead to four with less than a minute to go with a three-pointer at 51-47. But Holmes made 4-of-8 free throws to pull away.
The Thoroughbreds graduate Bueter, Seibert, Brennan Devoto, Colin Dupont and Jake Haas. They still won the All “A” State Tournament, the Ashland Invitational and fifth consecutive 36th District title.