By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
BELLEVUE – The All “A” 9th Region crown came back to where it has been seven of the previous 10 years.
But the in-town 39th District rivals did not let them run away with it. The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds made the plays down the stretch to hold off the Newport Wildcats, 61-54 here Saturday.
“Give Newport credit,” said Grant Brannen, NewCath head coach. “Right when you felt like you had them, they hit three after three after three. (The Wildcats) did what they had to do to get back in the game. Also give our guys credit. Our backcourt did a good job in that last quarter.”
The game did not resemble anything close to the Jan. 2 contest that NewCath handled Newport, 80-51 on The Hill. The Wildcats (13-5) won five in a row since that contest.
In the tight game, every little thing mattered. Both teams saw three players reach double-digits. But the Thoroughbreds made enough free throws to take care of the Wildcats.
The Thoroughbreds committed just 10 fouls to 20 for the Wildcats. NewCath made 18-of-25 for 72 percent compared to 3-of-6 for 50 percent for Newport. Newport had one player foul out as it had to foul trailing in the final minutes and one finished with four for NewCath.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Michael Bueter came up huge again for the Thoroughbreds. He finished with 21 points making two three-pointers and 7-of-10 free throws to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Bueter spurred the key 7-0 run that put the Thoroughbreds up for good. He made a three-pointer the hit a lay-up to give NewCath a 53-48 lead with 1:51 remaining before Zach Pangallo hit two free throws to extend the margin to 55-48 with 36.3 seconds left.
“I was looking to get make a big basket the entire game to get us going,” Seibert said. “When I made that, it made everyone calm and cool again. We got focused and got ourselves the win.”
But Newport hit consecutive three-pointers to trim the margin to 55-54 with 17 seconds left. Pangallo hit two more free throws with 16 seconds left to make the score 57-54.
Newport had a chance to tie the game on a three-pointer but JaQuan Short traveled giving the ball back to the Thoroughbreds. Bueter hit two more free throws and another pair after another Newport miss in the game’s final 10.5 seconds to put the game away.
Pangallo and center Drew McDonald also made the all-tournament team for NewCath. McDonald scored 11 and Pangallo added 10 making 6-of-6 free throws.
The guards had to come up huge because Newport collapsed on McDonald and Jake Schulte inside because Nick Seibert is out with an injury. Schulte scored just six points but did grab 12 rebounds as NewCath won that battle, 32-21. Schulte may return as early as Tuesday.
JaSean Short led Newport with 21 points making two three-pointers. Teammate Marquis Commodore led the Wildcat rally with five three-pointers for 15 points and JaQuan Short scored 10 on two three-pointers. Commodore hit a triple with 3:24 left in the game to tie the score at 48.
“(With) the way they spread you out, they’re going to get open looks,” Brannen said. “They’re tough to guard, especially when they knock down shots like they did in the second half. If you’d have told me they’d hit six or seven three-pointers in the second half, I’d have probably said we’re in trouble. But our guys sustained (the lead) and I was proud of them.”
NewCath led 13-12 after the first quarter and built a lead toward halftime. The Thoroughbreds finished the half with an 8-0 run to erase a 20-19 deficit. Devoto started the rally with a three-pointer on his way to eight points. Schulte added a bucket with McDonald making a bucket and 1-of-2 free throws during that run.
McDonald had a steal and score to give NewCath a 29-20 lead. But Newport rallied to take the lead. JaSean Short hit a three-point play with 1:43 left to give the Wildcats a 39-35 lead.
But NewCath took the lead back entering the fourth quarter. Bueter made two free throws and Devoto made his other three-pointer with four seconds left in the third to put NewCath up 40-39.
“We (guards) just have to step up our game every night,” Devoto said. “Luckily, (Saturday) was my night to knock down two clutch threes.”
The Thoroughbreds made 19-of-38 shots for 50 percent, including five three-pointers and the Wildcats made 21-of-47 shots for 45 percent with nine three-pointers. Ben Weyer also hit a triple for NewCath.
NewCath travels to Highlands (7-11) on Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. contest. The All “A” state championship at the Frankfort Convention Center begins Thursday with the Thoroughbreds battling 12th Region champion Somerset (14-5) at 6:30 p.m.
NCC girls 57, Mason County 47:
The Thoroughbreds (15-4) ventured to Maysville and snatched the non-region win over the improved Lady Royals (11-6).
Mason County played man-to-man defense, but could not match up with Nikki Kiernan. The junior standout recorded a double-double of 28 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. Kiernan made both three-point shots, all six free throws and 10-of-19 from the field for about 53 percent.
“We didn’t play bad,” said George Stoll, NewCath head coach. “We wanted to get the ball to (Kiernan). They had a tough time staying with her.”
Kiernan had plenty of help. Alexus Mayes added 10 points and six rebounds with Michaela Ware adding six points, four assists and three steals.
NewCath made its free throws down the stretch. The Thoroughbreds made 16-of-20 for 80 percent. Loren Zimmerman made 3-of-4 down the stretch.
Mason County saw one player reach double-digits. That was Alivia Bierley with a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds.
NewCath opens the All “A” state tournament in Frankfort against Pineville (14-7) on Wednesday. Game time is 1 p.m.