By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
FRANKFORT – It came down to a battle of size against speed and whichever basketball team controlled the tempo to its liking would most likely come out victorious.
That turned out to be the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds in the All “A” Boys State Championship on Sunday at the Frankfort Convention Center. They slowed the tempo down, pounded the ball inside to their tall posts and ran away for a 75-54 win over the Bardstown Tigers for their second state championship. The other title came in 2000.
The Thoroughbreds have won 10 in a row to move to 22-2 since dropping consecutive games to defending state champion Louisville Trinity and Covington Catholic. They had lost in their four previous appearances in the state semifinals, including 2011.
“I told the guys this morning that we have to play to our identity,” said Grant Brannen, NewCath head coach. “We have to move the ball around and execute our plays. Those kids did it to perfection. They came ready.”
The Tigers (19-6) also came into the game with hopes of winning their second title, but had to settle for runner-up honors to another 9th Region opponent. They lost 52-51 on a last-second shot to Covington Holy Cross last year.
“They used their mismatches and we should have used ours and capitalized on them as well,” said James Brewer, Bardstown head coach. “That’s a good team. My guys played hard from day one until now. I’m very proud of them. It just wasn’t God’s will for us to come out victorious.”
NewCath again had balanced scoring as four of the five starters reached double-figures. It started in the paint with Drew McDonald. The tournament’s Most Valuable Player tore Bardstown up in the interior for a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds. McDonald made 8-of-13 shots and 5-of-6 free-throw attempts. He added four assists and two blocked shots.
“Our size just killed them,” McDonald said. “They couldn’t guard Jake and me down low, and we took advantage of it. I have two years (of high school) left and I’m looking forward to them. But I’m definitely going to enjoy this.”
Senior guard Michael Bueter matched McDonald’s efforts with 21 points and four assists. He made 5-of-8 shots including 2-of-4 from downtown and 9-of-11 free-throw attempts.
Bueter and Jake Schulte joined McDonald on the All-Tournament Team. Schulte had 12 points making 6-of-8 shots and nabbing eight rebounds to go with two blocked shots.
Nick Seibert and Zach Pangallo also had good games for the Thoroughbreds. Seibert finished with 11 points making 3-of-6 shots and all five free-throw attempts and added three steals.
Pangallo directed the offense against Bardstown’s 2-2-1 press. He finished with eight points making the other 2-of-4 NewCath three-point shots.
“We saw the scouting report and saw the middle was wide open so we wanted to get the ball to the middle,” Pangallo said. “We do our best to stay calm and get the ball up the court as fast as we can. We don’t try to rush things because we don’t want any dumb turnovers.”
Seibert again drew a tough defensive task against Bardstown guard Devonte Grundy. Seibert used his 6-foot-5-inch frame to limit Grundy to 14 points and 12 rebounds. Grundy made just 5-of-20 shots, including one three-pointer and all three free-throw attempts.
“We know that defense wins games,” Seibert said. “My job is to make guys go to the basket. I have two tall bigs that are going to help me at all times. We just played hard. That’s what got the job done.”
Elijay Cowherd came off the bench and led Bardstown with 21 points on 3-of-5 from three-point range. He added three assists.
But the Thoroughbreds held Marcus Cosby to seven points. Cosby made just 2-of-6 shots including 1-of-4 from three-point range.
Bardstown won the rebounding battle, 35-26 including 21-6 on the offensive glass. But the Tigers still did not shoot better than the Thoroughbreds and outscored NewCath just 16-11 on second-chance points.
NewCath again shot an astounding 25-of-42 from the field for 60 percent and made 21-of-25 free throws for 84 percent. Bardstown made just 19-of-60 shots for 32 percent and 11-of-12 free throws for 92 percent.
The Thoroughbreds put the game away with an 18-0 run in the second half. That ballooned their 38-37 lead with 3:25 left in the third to 56-37 with 6:31 left in the game. McDonald scored seven during that run.
“Getting that double-digit lead was huge,” Brannen said. “We went on a nice run and were able to put it away.”
The Tigers cut the margin to 11 once after that when Cosby scored on a three-point play. That made the score 60-49 in favor of NewCath with 4:14 remaining in the game.
McDonald had given NewCath the lead for good at 35-33 with 6:06 remaining in the third. Schulte assisted on the play.
NewCath finished the first half with a 5-0 run to go up 31-26 at halftime. Schulte scored on an offensive putback and Pangallo made a triple.
There were 10 lead changes prior to that point. Bardstown’s largest lead was one point on three separate occasions.
The Thoroughbreds return to action Tuesday. They cross the Ohio River to face North College Hill at 7:30 p.m.