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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Field set for 9th Region Tournament


By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

A coach once said blind draws involve a lot of luck.

Based on that, the Highlands Ladybirds and Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbred girls basketball teams received good draws for the 9th Region Tournaments to be held at Northern Kentucky University’s Bank of Kentucky Center. But that was not so much the case for their male counterparts.

The girls tournament is slated to start Monday as Highlands (22-7) battles 34th District champion St. Henry (18-11) at 6:30 p.m. The winner takes on either state runner-up Notre Dame (20-8) or 33rd District champion Boone County (17-11) on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Highlands handled the Lady Crusaders, 59-39 in Fort Thomas on Feb. 8. The Ladybirds own a record of 14-3 in region play including 6-2 against the other seven teams in the tournament. The lost to Notre Dame and Newport Central Catholic in the 36th District title game, 55-45.

Highlands advanced to the region title game last year for the first time since 2002. The Ladybirds are seeking to advance past the region quarterfinals in consecutive years for the first time since then as well.

On the other side of the bracket, NewCath (26-4) owns the best record in the region. The Thoroughbreds take on 33rd District runner-up Conner (15-15) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. The winner faces either Covington Holy Cross (20-7) or Dixie Heights (13-17) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Thoroughbreds are seeking their first region win since winning the 9th Region in 2011. They are 17-2 in region play including 7-2 against the tournament field. They beat Conner, 50-42 on Feb. 21.

The championship game takes place Sunday at 6 p.m. NewCath may be the overall favorite, but the field is deep and wide-open. The Thoroughbreds are seeking their fourth region title since 2003 and the Ladybirds are seeking their first crown since 2001.

The boys side also sees NewCath as the overall favorite with its size and depth. The two-time All “A” State Tournament champions have won 21 in a row to improve to 28-3 overall. They finished a perfect 17-0 in region play including 6-0 against the field.

Their three losses came to state-ranked Louisville Ballard, Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park and Lexington Lafayette. They beat 2012 state champion Louisville Trinity in the last week of the season.

The Thoroughbreds drew St. Henry on Wednesday at 8 p.m. NewCath beat the Crusaders (14-10), 83-67 on Jan. 24 in the All “A” 9th Region Tournament semifinals.

The winner takes on either Covington Catholic (26-2) or Ryle (14-10) on Sunday at Noon. It would have been ideal for NewCath to play CovCath in the title game.

The Colonels led the Thoroughbreds, 32-27 in a regular-season match-up in January at halftime. But the game was called because of condensation on CovCath’s floor.

Covington Holmes upset the Colonels, 72-62 in double overtime in the 35th District title game on Saturday. NewCath lost to Holmes in the first round of the tournament last year after falling in the previous two region title games.

The Bluebirds (9-14) would love to add another building block in their rebuilding process. They are in the tournament after a one-year absence.

But they drew 35th District champion Holmes (26-5) on Friday at 8 p.m. Holmes beat Highlands just 63-52 on Feb. 7 in Fort Thomas. The Bluebirds finished 7-9 in region play including 2-6 against the field.

The winner draws either 34th District champion Dixie Heights (23-7) or Conner (11-14) on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. The championship game takes place Monday at 7 p.m.

NewCath has not won region since 2000 while Highlands has not won it since 2001. The Bluebirds won four region titles between 1997 and 2001 including a state runner-up finish in 1997.

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