FRANKFORT — Newport Central Catholic, playing up to its rating as the best small-school boys' basketball team in the state, won the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic by blasting Bardstown 75-54 in the Frankfort Convention Center on Sunday afternoon.
The Thoroughbreds also won the All "A" title in 2000, but lost out in the semifinals four times since then before getting back to the winner's circle this year.
"Living NewCath basketball my whole life, this is a dream come true," said Coach Grant Brannen, who was an assistant on the 2000 championship team.
NewCath's big guys — 6-foot-8 junior Jake Schulte, 6-6 sophomore Drew McDonald and 6-5 senior Nick Seibert — were too tall a challenge for opponents all week.
McDonald, who was voted the MVP, had 21 points, 11 rebounds and four assists against Bardstown, which was runner-up for the second year in a row.
Schulte had 12 points and eight rebounds in the finals.
"Today our size just killed them. They couldn't guard Jake and me down low, and we took advantage of it," McDonald said.
NewCath Coach Grant Brannen described McDonald and Schulte as dominant. Between them they collected 113 points and 63 rebounds in the tournament. "People really didn't have an answer for them," Brannen said.
Brannen called Seibert the "unsung hero" for his defensive work on Knott Central's Camron Jackson and Bardstown's Devonte Grundy in the finals. Seibert hounded them into a combined 11-for-37 shooting.
NewCath senior guard Michael Bueter had 21 points, four rebounds and four assists against Bardstown, and he led the Thoroughbreds with 65 points in their four-game sweep.
"Words can't describe how it feels to win it," Bueter said before offering up the word "amazing."
Sophomore point guard Zach Pangallo ran the show with a steady hand.
NewCath delivered the knockout punch to Bardstown with a 18-0 run that covered the last three minutes of the third quarter and the first 1:30 of the fourth.
"Normally we're the team that has an 18-0 run," Bardstown Coach James "Boo" Brewer said. "But give (NewCath) credit. They're a great team and well-coached.
"We took some ill-advised shots, we rushed some things, lost some assignments on defense and got ourselves in a bind we couldn't get out of."
Eljay Cowherd led the Tigers with 21 points. Grundy had his fourth consecutive double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. He totaled 92 and 45 in the tournament.
When the final horn sounded, NewCath's players celebrated in a heap at midcourt.
Brannen, meanwhile, ran around hugging everybody in sight, including Ron Dawn and Rob Detzel, former NewCath coaches he served under as an assistant. But Brannen's most meaningful hug was for his dad, John.
Grant was the ball boy for two NewCath teams that made it to the All "A" state in the early 1990s when his brother John was a star.
When Grant was 15, he wrote his dad a letter saying it was his dream to play in the All "A" state, too. But NewCath never could get out of the region in Grant's playing days (1996-98).
That disappointment was erased on Sunday, though.
"To share this memory, winning the state title, with my dad ..."
Grant couldn't finish his thought as he fought back tears of joy.
NEWPORT CATHOLIC (22-2) — Schulte 12, McDonald 21, Bueter 21, Pangallo 8, Devoto 11, Gray 2.
BARDSTOWN (19-6) — Grundy 14, Cowherd 21, Cosby 7, Young 4, Johnson 3, Schooling 3, Yocum 2.
Newport Catholic 15 16 19 25—75
Bardstown 12 14 11 17—54
All-tournament: Drew McDonald (MVP), Jake Schulte, Michael Bueter of NewCath; Devonte Grundy, Marcus Cosby of Bardstown; Jon Ballard, A.J. Hammons of Model; Camron Justice, Evan Hall of Knott Central; Justin Saunders of Bishop Brossart; Dominique Mack of Lou. Holy Cross; Kyle Skaggs of Russell; Carson Williams of Owen County.