Newport Central Catholic got a measure of revenge against defending All “A” Classic champion Cordia on Thursday, ousting the Lions in the first round of this year’s tournament 65-57 at the Frankfort Convention Center.
“We wanted this game really bad, because last year they knocked us out in the final four,” Thoroughbreds senior guard Luke Moeves said. “This is big for us.”
Last season, the Thoroughbreds, led by coaching legend Ron Dawn and future Bellarmine player Ben Weyer, fell to the Lions in the All “A” semifinals.
This season, NewCath (12-7) outplayed the bigger, more physical Cordia (10-6) down the stretch, making 11 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter.
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“We talk about the ‘next man up’ mentality. And our program’s always had that,” said first-year Thoroughbreds Coach Ken Collopy. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”
Junior forward Brendan Luken scored a game-high 22 points, more than 15 above his average, while having to guard Cordia’s hulking senior forward Malik Henry.
Henry scored 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds but could only contribute one free throw and one put-back field goal in the fourth quarter. Henry had six offensive rebounds earlier in the game, including a buzzer-beating put-back at the end of the first half that cut the Thoroughbreds’ lead to 33-27.
First-year Cordia coach Josh Hurt questioned his team’s focus early as the Lions fell behind by as many as nine points in the second period.
“We gave them a lot of easy shots, a lot of good looks and when you play a team like NewCath and you gave them the looks that we gave them, you’re going to be playing from behind pretty quick and that’s what happened to us,” Hurt said.
Cordia roared back into the game in the third period thanks to a 7-0 run capped by Marquis Frazier’s steal and fast-break layup that put the Lions up 40-38 at the 1:28 mark.
Luken scored on a Stephen Pangallo assist with just more than a minute left in the third to tie the game at 40, and it looked like anybody’s game. But NewCath got more aggressive on the defensive boards and limited Cordia’s second-chance points. With the scored tied at 46 with four minutes left, a Pangallo three-pointer and Luken bucket sandwiched a single made free throw from Henry, giving the Thoroughbreds a 51-47 edge a minute later.
“When you’re doing the things that you’re supposed to do, you can take a six-point deficit and turn it into a two-point lead,” Hurt said. “And when you revert back to not playing defense, not communicating, you go right back into the hole.”
Lions junior guard Kareem McDonald missed three consecutive shots in the final minute as NewCath pulled away. McDonald led his team with 15 points, but went 5-of-18 from the field.
The Thoroughbreds knew Cordia would be a tough draw, but Collopy said the team’s early-season schedule, which has featured teams like Scott County, Campbell County, Covington Catholic and St. Xavier, prepared them.
“We took some lumps early and we’re starting to hit our stride now,” Collopy said. “But we don’t want to be our best this week. We want to be our best going into the region. And I think we’ll do that.”
Former Cordia head coach Rodrick Rhodes was in attendance Thursday. The former University of Kentucky and Southern California player coached the Lions for five seasons until his contract was not renewed last year. “I’m just looking for a job,” Rhodes said. He did some interviews for radio and a documentary before sitting a few seats off center toward the NewCath bench during the game.
All ‘A” Classic
At Frankfort Convention Center
Thursday’s first round
Owensboro Catholic 58, Pineville 23
Paris vs. Elliott Co., (n)
Danville vs. Walton-Verona, (n)
Lou. Holy Cross vs. Lex. Christian, (n)
5 p.m.: Mayfield (16-5) vs. Russellville (14-7)
6:30 p.m.: Newport Catholic (12-7) vs. University Heights (11-10)
8 p.m.: Pineville-Owensboro Catholic winner vs. Paris-Elliott Co. winner
9:30 p.m.: Danville-Walton-Verona winner vs. Louisville Holy Cross-Lexington Christian winner