Game 8 preview: Clay County vs. Covington Catholic

mfields@herald-leader.comMarch 18, 2014 

Point guard Tyler "Chip" McDaniel leads Clay County in scoring with 16 points a game.

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Clay County

Region: 13th | Record: 23-8 | Enrollment: 873

Coach's résumé

Robert Marcum, who started on Clay County's 1990 and 1992 Sweet Sixteen final four teams, has a 95-36 record in four years as coach.

Starters

No. Player Ht. Yr. Ppg.

22 Tyler "Chip" McDaniel 6-0 Jr. 16.0

32 Trey Farmer 6-3 So. 12.5

33 Jake Allen 6-8 Sr. 12.0

11 Wes Wolfe 6-3 So. 10.9

2 Blake Smith 6-2 So. 11.6

Scouting report

There's no better-balanced team in the tournament than the Tigers, whose five starters average in double figures. "We're a team, not individuals," Marcum said. McDaniel, a heady point guard, runs the show. Allen, a transfer from North Laurel, is an inside force. (He averaged 14 ppg and 11 rpg for North Laurel's 2012 region champs). Farmer, the son of former Clay County star Richie Farmer, is also an effective big body inside. Wolfe and Smith can shoot it or put it on the floor. The Tigers can also win at different speeds. They beat Jackson County 93-92 in the district finals, then led Corbin 22-18 at halftime of the region finals before winning 68-54. "It took a while this season, but these kids bought into the system and bought into playing defense," Marcum said Booster shot

Clay County might not be in Rupp if not for a stunning comeback in the district finals. They trailed Jackson County by six with 20 seconds left but rallied to win 93-92. "That was a big win for us," Marcum said. "That kind of put us over the hump, and we've been playing really good basketball since then."

Player to watch

McDaniel knows how to deliver clutch shots. He won the Kentucky State Amateur and the U.S. Junior Amateur golf championships last summer, and he makes free throws look like gimmes. He hit 12 of 12 foul shots in the region finals, most of them down the stretch. On the season he's shooting 83 percent from the line. He's also accurate from long range. He's hit 62 of 160 threes (39 percent). McDaniel, a junior with a 4.0 GPA, will bypass his senior year of high school and graduate this May and enroll in UK this summer. He has a full scholarship to UK, where he will join his older brother Todd on the UK golf team.

Sweet history

The Tigers are in the tournament for the second year in a row, and 29th time overall. They won the state title in 1987 and were runners-up in 1985 and 1988.

Covington Catholic

Region: 9th | Record: 29-2 | Enrollment: 573 (all boys)

Coach's résumé

Scott Ruthsatz is 73-23 in three years at CovCath. He's from Sandusky, Ohio, and was an assistant under Bobby Hurley Sr. at St. Anthony, N.J., for three years. He was looking to get closer to home when CovCath's job opened up.

Starters

No. Player Ht. Yr. Ppg.

22 Nick Ruthsatz 5-9 Sr. 21.7

3 Cole VonHandorf 6-1 Fr. 10.3

11 Bo Schuh 6-6 Jr. 9.0

42 Mark Schult 6-3 Sr. 10.6

24 Ben Heppler 6-5 So. 9.1

Scouting report

CovCath beat Newport Central Catholic, a terrific half-court team, in the region semifinals. The Colonels beat quick-tempo Holmes in the finals. That explains how CovCath went 29-2. They adapt and conquer. "It depends on the personnel (we're playing)," Scott Ruthsatz said. Nick Ruthsatz, the coach's son, runs the point and is the primary scorer. "And he puts guys in situations where they can be successful," the coach said. Schult had 30 points in the region win over Ryle. Schuh has come on strong as an inside presence. VonHandorf is a special freshman. "As cool as they come. Very heady, very smart," Ruthsatz said. The bench is deep, led by Grant Romes, Parker Keller, Cooper Theobald and Matthew Shumate.

Cheers to the Colonels

CovCath's student cheering section may give new meaning to the eRUPPtion Zone this week. "It's absolutely ridiculous what they do," Scott Ruthsatz said, meaning it as a compliment. "Their support is amazing. They're so organized in what they do. They've got the spirit, no doubt, and our players feed off that."

Player to watch

Nick Ruthsatz, a University of Findlay (Ohio) recruit, is the prototypical coach's son — a savvy point guard with a high hoops IQ who can dish it or score it. He leads the team in scoring, assists (4.7), steals (59), three-pointers (72 of 204 for 35 percent) and free throws (174 of 230 for 76 percent.) He overcame a stomach bug to lead the Colonels with 24 points in the region finals. Now he's topping off his career playing for his dad in Rupp Arena.

Sweet history

This is the Colonels' ninth state tournament, and first since 2006. They were state runners-up to Earlington in 1967, and lost to eventual champ Warren Central in the 2004 semifinals.

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.

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