By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
They have been labeled 9th Region favorites once again.
That’s because the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds have the size and depth to give teams problems in addition to adding some key players. A familiar face in Head Coach Ron Dawn returns to the sidelines this year after Grant Brannen took the same position at Walton-Verona last spring.
Dawn takes over a team that returns three starters from last year’s 30-3 squad that won its fifth straight 36th District Tournament crown. The Thoroughbreds won the All “A” State Tournament and rode an 18-game winning streak into the 9th Region Tournament at the Bank of Kentucky Center on Northern Kentucky University’s campus.
But eventual region champion Covington Holmes handed NewCath an early exit, 55-50 in the first round of the tournament. NewCath had lost to Boone County and Dixie Heights in the previous two 9th Region title games. Dawn said the region will be loaded again this year.
“(Covington) Holmes, CovCath (Covington Catholic) and Dixie (Heights) are all really good teams,” Dawn said. “I think St. Henry is going to surprise some people. We’ll have four teams from our region ranked – probably more than any other region aside from Louisville.”
NewCath graduated starters Nick Seibert and Michael Bueter in addition to several reserves. Bueter took his talents to Union College in Barbourville.
Holmes exploited NewCath’s major weakness in that win. The Thoroughbreds struggled shooting from outside when Bueter was not in the game. Holmes keyed its defense in the paint after Bueter picked up some fouls and had to sit. That’s why the Thoroughbreds addressed it in the offseason.
“If it goes like it’s been going here in preseason, we’ll be fine,” Dawn said. “We can shoot the ball really well. We have four guys who have been stepping out and shooting well from the three-point line so we hope it continues.”
The Thoroughbreds already knew they’d be strong inside with the return of 6-foot-8-inch senior Jake Schulte and 6-7 junior Drew McDonald. Schulte just committed to the University of South Carolina-Upstate of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Northern Kentucky University has offered McDonald a scholarship. The Thoroughbreds could also start 6-5 sophomore Ben Weyer to really give opponents fits down there.
As expected, the third returning starter in junior point guard Zach Pangallo also returns and is one of those players that has been shooting well from three-point range. Pangallo hopes to lead a transition to the fast-paced attack. McDonald is another one.
“If I get (the outside shooting) going, (opponents) are not going to be able to sag off me, which will leave Jake one-on-one in the post,” McDonald said. “If Jake gets his outside shooting it will be vise versa. Then we have our guards who can knock down shots so they can’t sag off them either. You’ll have to pick your poison with us.”
But the Thoroughbreds received a major boost when the Moeves brothers transferred from Walton-Verona. Senior 6-2 guard Tanner Moeves holds an offer from NCAA Division II Christian Brothers and is receiving interest from other schools.
“Ever since we found out the Moeves were going to come to NewCath, we just included them in everything,” Schulte said. “They’ve been coming to open gym. We’ve been having a great time with them. We spent the night at each other’s houses. It’s like they’ve been here since (their) freshmen year. We just really like having them here.”
The other two brothers are junior 6-2 Grant Moeves and freshman Luke Moeves. Tanner Moeves averaged 19 points per game at Walton-Verona last year and Grant Moeves averaged 14 as a sophomore.
“We’ve been very, very, very blessed,” Tanner Moeves said. “We’ve been totally accepted into the environment and to all the football games and everything. It could not have been a better welcome for our family. We had to make a lot of hard decisions, but we’re glad that we did it and it has been great.”
A number of other players could play a big role in adding depth to NewCath. Senior forwards Mac Franzen and Josh Verkamp also return for the Thoroughbreds. Sophomores Jacob Smith, Eric Anderson and Ryan Anderson could also contribute for NewCath this year.
The Thoroughbreds begin their season Tuesday. The play host to the Dixie Heights Colonels at 7:30 p.m.