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Friday, November 28, 2014

Thoroughbreds reload for another run at state

Allen Ramsey Photo. Newport Central Catholic post Ben Weyer (44) puts up a shot in the 9th Region semifinals against Covington Catholic last year. The Thoroughbreds return three starters from last year's 29-4 team that hopes to grab that elusive 9th Region title.
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

They’ve carried the same preseason title the last few years, but have fallen short of it.

That’s the title of preseason favorites to win the 9th Region boys basketball title. They held the title last year and dominated most of the year going 29-4 overall. The Thoroughbreds won their second straight All “A” state championship and captured their sixth consecutive 36th District title. But in the 9th Region semifinals, NewCath fell 51-43 to the eventual state champion Covington Catholic Colonels.

“Depth is the key. But we’re just trying to get better,” said Ron Dawn, veteran NewCath Head Coach. “We lost to a good team. It wasn’t like we lost to a bad team or something in the region. This year, we have to make sure we’re playing well at the right time of the year. We didn’t lose to any bad teams last year.”

The Thoroughbreds hope to capture that elusive crown for the first time since 2000 starting with the return of three starters from that team. They are senior point guard Zach Pangallo, senior center Drew McDonald and junior center Ben Weyer. McDonald recently signed to play for nearby Northern Kentucky University.

“That loss last year was heartfelt,” Pangallo said. “Since starting our sophomore year, we always wanted to win the region. It’s our senior year now so we have to come out and play our best basketball to come out on top and win the region.”

NewCath graduated Jake Schulte, Tanner Moeves, Mac Franzen, Josh Verkamp and Tyler Rawe from last year’s team. Schulte is playing for South Carolina-Upstate and Moeves is playing at nearby Thomas More College.

Senior Grant Moeves will move into one of the starting spots after being the first one off the bench last year. The question is figuring out who will be the fifth starter. Among the candidates are junior Erik Anderson, sophomore Luke Moeves and junior John Ludwig.

Weyer and McDonald again plan to use their 6-foot-5-inch and taller frames to their advantage. They dominated the paint last year and have added more to their games in the offseason.

“I really love playing with Drew because we’re so similar,” Weyer said. “We can shoot outside and post up. That leads to a lot of mismatches. It just benefits the whole team because we can spread people out. Defenses struggle with that. None of us play selfish.”

Pangallo often started the offense. He got in foul trouble against CovCath. The Colonels tried to make others start the offense in that game and more opponents could do the same this year.

“That’s easier said than done. Zack does a really good job,” Dawn said. “But we have some other guys. We’re going to take him off the point some and let Grant play the point some. We just have to be patient to get it in his hands and let him run things.”

A number of others are hoping to give the Thoroughbreds that needed depth. They include senior guard Seth Freppon and junior guards Brian Anderson and Jacob Smith.

“I think we have really good team chemistry,” Dawn said. “These kids get along and play well together. They’re really unselfish – sometimes to a fault. They get the ball to the open man. Defensively, I think we’re going to be really good before it’s over.”

NewCath plays a tougher schedule this year. The Thoroughbreds again play in the King of the Bluegrass Tournament in addition to the Clem Haskins Classic at Taylor County and a game in the biggest high school gym in the country in New Castle (Ind.). The schedule is meant to help the Thoroughbreds prepare for the rugged region that will again include CovCath, Covington Holmes, Dixie Heights and Cooper among the contenders.

“That’s the whole intent of it – to get us better,” Dawn said. “We have a lot of tough teams in our region. Our region will be strong again. We don’t get a night off.”

The Thoroughbreds open the season Tuesday at Dixie Heights. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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