Newport boys end Holmes' reign

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — For the first time since John F. Kennedy was in the White House, Newport's Wildcats are in the Sweet Sixteen.

And for the first time in four years, Holmes isn't heading to Rupp Arena.

Newport pulled off a stunner in the boys' 9th Region finals Sunday afternoon, dominating the defending state champion Bulldogs 60-34 in the Bank of Kentucky Center at Northern Kentucky University.

The Wildcats, in the state tournament for the first time since 1962, will face the 2nd Region winner in Rupp Arena on March 17.

"It's unbelievable, a dream come true. I couldn't ask for anything more," Newport Coach Aric Russell said.

"We knew we could win today, but I'm a little shocked by how bad we beat (Holmes)."

DaMarkco Foster led Newport with 26 points. The 6-foot-3 senior jump-started the Cats with 12 points in the first 10 minutes as they raced to a 23-8 lead.

Holmes, which trailed 30-13 at halftime, cut the deficit to 12 late in the third quarter, but that was the extent of its rally. Newport wound up winning in a rout.

Even though 12th-ranked Holmes beat the Cats twice by double digits during the regular season, Foster wasn't surprised by the outcome.

"We knew we could beat them like this if we played to our potential," he said. "This is the best defense, and the best game, we've played all year."

Casey McDaniel, a 6-5 senior, had 12 points for Newport. Brandon Sizemore hit two three-pointers to help fuel the Cats' first-half surge.

Holmes, which was looking for its fifth region title in six years, never looked in sync on either end of the floor.

The Bulldogs couldn't find the basket. They were 3-for-16 from the field in the first half, and finished 9-for-43 (21 percent).

Did Coach David Henley think the shots would eventually start to fall?

"I thought they might if we started taking good shots, but we never showed any patience," he said.

Henley wasn't pleased with his team's defense, either.

"We didn't do a very good job guarding them," he said. "They got second shots, they got in the paint, and they got the basket.

"We just didn't play well against a very good team."

Ricardo Johnson, MVP of last year's Sweet Sixteen, had 10 points. Elijah Pittman had only seven.

"All good things must come to an end," Henley said.

For Newport, Sunday's win meant the end of a 48-year state tournament drought.

"We've talked about it all the time," Russell said. "And we're reminded about it all the time by old-timers who come by practice.

"So we knew it'd been a long time."

NEWPORT (29-5) Foster 26, McDaniel 12, Collins 5, Luther 4, Sizemore 6, Jones 3, Tucker 4.

HOLMES (25-6) — Pittman 7, R. Johnson 10, Rice 2, J. Johnson 7, Herndon 3, McClendon 3, Slusher 2.

Newport 14 16 10 20—60

Holmes 8 5 12 9—34