Thursday, March 27, 2014

Covington Catholic Wins the State Title

There were 14,165 people at Rupp Arena on Sunday for the final of the state basketball tournament -- which is impressive when you consider that UK's game with Wichita was scheduled to tip-off about 40 minutes after Covington Catholic and Scott County started their game.  I didn't watch the state final myself, as I was too focused on the UK game to enjoy it, and I'm sorry I missed it -- it was apparently quite a contest.  Here's what happened:

Cov Cath led 9-3 with 6:09 left in the first quarter.  But then the Colonels didn't score for almost 10 minutes of game time, and Scott County went on an 18-0 run.  With 4:32 left in the first half, the Cardinals were up 21-9, and it looked as though they would add a state basketball title to the football title that they won a few months ago.

But the Colonels -- playing in the state title game for the first time since they lost to Earlington back in 1967 -- weren't done.  They finally started scoring again, but for a long time it didn't do them much good.  Scott County led 27-18 at the half, and the Cardinals led 36-28 after three quarters.

With 5:27 left in the game, Scott County still had an eight-point lead:  42-34.  But soon afterward, Cole VonHandorf hit a three pointer to make the score 42-37, and after that the comeback was on.  It was a slow comeback, because both teams were struggling to score, but with 1:24 left, Nick Ruthsatz made two free throws to cut Scott County's lead to 47-45.

The Colonels fouled Trent Gilbert, who had been deadly from the line against Trinity the night before.  In fact, he had made 28 free throws in a row before the final.  But Gilbert was in the midst of a nightmarish game -- he would go 4-25 from the field and score only 10 points -- and he missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  Now the Colonels had a chance to tie.  Nick Ruthsatz drew a foul, and he made two more free throws to tie the score at 47.  Scott County ball with 51 seconds left.

With 42 seconds left, Scott County called time.
With 17 seconds left, Scott County called time again.
With 10 seconds left, Scott County called time again.

Finally, with six seconds left, Gilbert took a jump shot to put the Cardinals back on top.  He missed, and the game went to overtime.  It was the third title game to go to overtime since 2009 -- Kentucky fans have been remarkably blessed with drama lately.

Ruthsatz opened the overtime with a jump shot to give Cov Cath a 49-47 lead -- and Gilbert responded with a three-pointer to put Scott County up 50-49.  With 1:53 to go, the score was tied at 51 and Gilbert had the ball.  Ruthsatz stole it, and a few seconds later Cov Cath was up 53-51.  Gilbert missed a three-pointer, Scott County got the rebound, and Gilbert missed another three-pointer.  A tip-in attempt missed, and Cov Cath had the ball and the lead with 1:31 to go.

The Colonels started to run out the clock, and Scott County was forced to foul.  But Cov Cath slammed the door at the line, and the Colonels won 59-51.

A month ago, there were lots of potential stories in the Kentucky state tournament.  In the end, it turned out to be the story of the Ruthsatz family.  With Nick Ruthsatz was a freshman, he was living in New Jersey, where his father Scott was an assistant at St. Anthony of Jersey City, one of the nation's legendary high school program.  But Scott Ruthsatz was offered the job at Covington Catholic, and the Ruthsatz family came to the Bluegrass.  Now they are state champions.

Nick Ruthsatz is only five feet nine inches tall -- he will be playing college ball for D-II Findlay, in Ohio.  But he wrote himself into KHSAA lore last week.  Against Scott County he had 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.  He also defended Gilbert.  So he took his dad's team to the title, and he was named tournament MVP.

This was Covington Catholic's first state basketball in school history, and the first for the Ninth Region since Covington Holmes went all the way in 2009.  Scott County was looking to add a third title to the ones it won in 1998 and 2007, but instead the Cardinals got a runners-up finish to go with its second-place finishes in 1999 and 2012.  Nevertheless, the Cardinals once again showed themselves to be one of the top programs in the state, and they got partial revenge for their loss to Trinity in 2012 title game by eliminating the Shamrocks this year.

Of course, we would like to have seen the title come to our end of the Commonwealth, but we are happy for the Colonels, who certainly deserved their title.


  1. That clip was amazing! What a game! If only the HP had been around back then.

    And after timing the last play, I am confident that Earlington got the game-winning shot off in time. Congratulations to them!

  2. Oh, me, too. The Internet Is Amazing.