|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Newport Central Catholic's Zack Pangallo goes in for a score in a recent game. The Thoroughbreds open the All "A" State Tournament Thursday against Hancock County at 11:30 a.m.|
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
It’s been a challenge they’ve handled the past two years and it is one they hope to do again and enter the history books.
The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds boys basketball team (16-3 overall) has won consecutive All “A” State championships after beating 36th District rival Highlands the Tuesday leading up to it. That means they would again play five games in six days.
The tournament expanded to its current format in 1990. Since then, no team has three-peated as state champions. University Heights of Hopkinsville has the most state championships with eight. The Blazers have repeated twice in 1990 and 1991 before doing it again in 1998 and 1999. They’ve lost in the opening round the previous two years.
“There’s a reason for that because it’s a great tournament,” said Drew McDonald, NewCath senior post. “With small schools, you only need five on the basketball court so you need to find five good players and they’re going to be good. Everyone is projecting us to roll through it, but that’s not going to be the case. We have to work hard. We have to take one game at a time and see what happens after that.”
NewCath enters the tournament on a five-game winning streak since losing 58-48 to Covington Catholic on Jan. 16 at the Bank of Kentucky Center at Northern Kentucky University. The Thoroughbreds beat the Bluebirds, 83-43 Tuesday in Fort Thomas.
“Our guys are in great shape,” said Ron Dawn, NewCath Head Coach. “Our schedule has prepared us for that.”
Aside from Covington Catholic, the other two losses for NewCath came to Louisville Ballard and Louisville Doss in the King of the Bluegrass Tournament. The Thoroughbreds beat St. Louis Christian Academy (Mo.) on Jan. 3.
NewCath opens the tournament Thursday against the Hancock County Hornets (12-7) from the 3rd Region. Game time is 11:30 a.m. at the Frankfort Convention Center. The winner faces either Kentucky Country Day (10-9) or Elliott County on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Hancock County has two players averaging in double figures. They are junior guard Ty Ogle and Garrett Pate at 13.8 and 11.6 points per game respectively.
Dawn and McDonald listed several teams who could challenge for the state title. Lexington Christian appears to be the biggest obstacle toward getting back to the title game. The Eagles (15-6) have size in senior 6-foot-7-inch Matt Rose and 6-8 Drew Trimble.
The other side of the bracket features several teams with two or fewer losses. Williamsburg is undefeated at 17-0. But Owen County (19-2) could also be in the mix along with Monroe County (19-2).
McDonald and junior post Ben Weyer average 17.9 and 16.1 points per game to lead the Thoroughbreds. Their size and versatility have given opponents fits all season. The two are not afraid to step out on the perimeter and make three-point shots. Senior point guard Zack Pangallo averages 10.7 a game. Players like John Ludwig, Erik Anderson and Grant Moeves have had some big games as well.
The Thoroughbreds are aiming for their fourth All “A” State Championship overall. In addition to the previous two years, NewCath also won the tournament in 2000.