The sellout crowd at Covington Catholic got its money’s worth as the home team overcame Cooper 55-52 in a potential 9th Region finals preview Wednesday night.
AJ Mayer scored an and-one layup and made the free throw with 5.2 seconds left to send Covington Catholic to its fifth straight win. His shot answered a game-tying three-pointer by Cooper’s Tyler Ollier about 12 seconds prior. Another tying three-point attempt by Cooper’s Brayden Runion hit the front of the rim as time expired.
Covington Catholic improved its all-time record against Cooper to 7-2. The programs have played each season since Cooper opened for the 2008-09 school year but have never met in the postseason. The Colonels were ranked fourth in both the Cantrall Ratings and the Associated Press poll this week; Cooper was 13th in the ratings but ranked ninth by the media.
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Aiden Ruthsatz led the Colonels with 22 points — 15 in the second quarter. Cole VonHandorf scored 12 for CovCath, and Mayer had 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Dante Hendrix scored 15 to lead Cooper.
“Coming into this game we knew they could shoot the ball well, so I really needed to produce more on rebounds,” Mayer said. “I sort of had a rough start, but I started to feel my way through it.”
Each team was without its leading scorer. CJ Frederick, a junior who has been offered a scholarship by Xavier and whose recruitment has picked up in recent weeks, broke his foot but is expected to return about district tournament time.
Cooper’s Sean McNeil, a Bellarmine signee, suffered a knee sprain during the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic in December and is day-to-day. His brother, Chris, also was injured during the LexCath tournament but could be back on the court next week.
Cooper Coach Tim Sullivan was pleased with his team’s play and enjoyed the raucous environment.
“This right here is fun,” Sullivan said. “It don’t get any better this. We told them to embrace this atmosphere. We made enough plays, they just made more plays than us down the stretch.”
Covington Catholic 55, Cooper 52
Cooper (14-4) — Hendrix 15, Kunkel 11, T. Ollier 3, Runion 13, Walters 5, Shidler 3, Wasser 2.
Covington Catholic (16-4) — VonHandorf 12, Mayer 10, Ruthsatz 22, Nowak 2, N. Thelen 2, Walter 7.