|G. Michael Graham Photo. Newport Central Catholic guard Michaela Ware goes in for a lay-up in Saturday's win over Boone County. The Thoroughbreds stayed undefeated at 5-0 with a 58-46 win on The Hill.|
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
NEWPORT – They showed there may not be much opponents can do in the big win Saturday when certain things happen.
The Boone County Lady Rebels basketball team tried to slow down standout post Nikki Kiernan and the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds by throwing two and sometimes three players at her just like last year. That resulted in a 45-37 win at Boone County last year and was also NewCath’s first loss of the season.
But the Thoroughbreds made sure that did not have the same effect this time around. NewCath stayed undefeated at 5-0 with a 58-46 9th Region win over the Lady Rebels (2-2) on The Hill. The two squads have combined to win eight of the last 11 region crowns.
“We somewhat gritted a win out there because (Boone County) battled,” said George Stoll, NewCath Head Coach. “It showed in the experience of our team to keep on playing hard. I told the girls it would be a game of runs. I was very proud of them.”
Kiernan often fought through the Boone County defense on her way to 24 points. She fell shy of a double-double with nine rebounds, four blocked shots and a steal.
Kiernan had plenty of help as NewCath overcame a 17 percent (1-for-6) night shooting from outside. Fellow post Alexus Mayes followed with 15 points to go with two rebounds and a blocked shot.
“(NewCath) is the best team in the region,” said Nell Fookes, Boone County Head Coach. “We got the opportunity to see them early. When they need a bucket, they know they’re going to get it out of Kiernan. I know at times we probably gave her a little too much room to work with. But it doesn’t matter. She’s that good of a player.”
NewCath junior point guard Michaela Ware continued to show her improved scoring touch with 10 points. Ware penetrated the paint for several lay-ups to go with two assists and a steal.
The NewCath patented on-ball pressure defense also made a huge difference. The Thoroughbreds recorded 10 steals to two for the Lady Rebels. Ansley Davenport, MiKayla Seibert and Loren Zimmerman recorded two thefts each for NewCath.
“Our defense has been really good,” Ware said. “We’ve been working on our presses. It seemed to help out a lot.”
NewCath also made a ton of hustle plays. For instance, Stephanie Lewis chased down a ball headed out of bounds and saved it to one of her teammates creating either a foul or another shot.
“You don’t want to give up on a play because you’re pretty much giving the other team the ball then,” Lewis said. “You need everyone doing that and not just one person. We’re always making sure we hustle in practice so we do it in games.”
The Thoroughbreds made 40 percent (19-of-48) from the field. The only thing that could have gone better was free throws. They made just 19-of-30 for 63 percent.
“Nikki (Kiernan) and Alexus (Mayes) missed some and they’re our two best free-throw shooters,” Stoll said. “As the season goes on, I know we’ll fix that.”
But Boone County did not shoot them much better. The Lady Rebels hit 6-of-12 free-throw tries for 50 percent and 17-of-51 shots for 33 percent.
Their three-point shooting kept them close. Boone County made 6-of-13 there for 46 percent.
Boone County saw just one player reach double-digits. Alexis Switzer scored 15 points to go with six rebounds and four assists. She made two three-pointers.
“(NewCath) is a very good defensive team,” Fookes said. “They rush you. Some of that we did ourselves. But there are a lot of positives to build on from the game. This is a tough place to play.”
NewCath trailed 14-12 after the first quarter. The Thoroughbreds led 20-19 before ending the first half on an 8-0 run to go up 28-19 at halftime. Ware scored twice during that run. She finished off a fast-break score after Davenport recorded a steal with 24 seconds left in the half.
The Lady Rebels did come back and tie the game at 38 late in the third quarter. But Kiernan hit a jumper and Ware hit another lay-up with 33 seconds left to put NewCath up 42-38 after the third quarter.
Boone County cut the margin to one in the fourth quarter after Switzer made a three-pointer at 44-43 with 5:12 left in the game. But NewCath pulled away behind Kiernan and Mayes.
The Thoroughbreds play host to Montgomery County (3-2) on Friday. Game time is 7:30 p.m. on The Hill. The Lady Indians have won eight of the last nine 10th Region crowns.