Bellarmine University’s men’s basketball team may have a secret weapon in its back pocket next year.
In the first quarterfinal of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen on Friday, Ben Weyer put on a show, dominating in the paint and on the perimeter to lead the Thoroughbreds past Murray 75-54 and into the state semifinals for the first time since 1954.
The Tigers had no answer for Weyer, a 6-foot-6 senior who’s signed to play for the Division II Knights next year. He went off for 27 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including a 5-for-6 clip from three-point range, showing off an inside-out skill set that impressed Murray head coach Bart Flener.
“He’s the best player I feel like we’ve played against all year,” Flener said. “His versatility is outstanding.”
Weyer had just four points in the first quarter but helped stake the Thoroughbreds to a 17-8 lead by pulling down four of his game-high 12 rebounds and dishing out two of his three assists.
After missing his first shot from the perimeter, Weyer nailed three straight in the second quarter, combining with Brennan Hall to stretch the Thoroughbreds’ lead to 38-17 at halftime. Hall, a sophomore guard, chipped in 21 points, nearly double his season average, on 6-for-13 shooting.
Newport Catholic came out of the locker room sloppy to begin the second half, committing four of its 10 turnovers in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the third quarter. A pair of free throws by Ethan Clark capped a 10-2 run that drew Murray within 13 points at 50-37, but that was as close as the Tigers would get.
A block on the defensive end and another three-pointer from Weyer with 47 seconds left in the quarter seemed to drain the life from Murray.
“We were trying to dig our way back in and get it to 10,” Flener said. “Then that stretched it back out and it felt like ‘Man, he just made another one’… we found out how good he was.”
As a team, NewCath shot 21-for-45 from the field and was just the second opponent to top 70 points this year against Murray.
By contrast, the Thoroughbreds held Murray to 16-for-55 from the field, including 5-for-22 in the first half, for 29.1 percent.
NewCath head coach Ron Dawn credited senior guards Brian and Eric Anderson for making things tough on James Boone, Murray’s leading scorer this season. The senior was held to eight points on 2-for-9 shooting.
“We did a good job on (Boone) and that was the Andersons,” he said. “They’re both really solid defensively, they’re really aggressive. A lot of times that gets overlooked but these two guys bring so much energy defensively to our team.”
NewCath will take on Paul Laurence Dunbar in Saturday’s first semifinal matchup, looking to earn a trip to the state championship for the first time in program history.
“I told them in there after the game I’ve been hoping to get to the final four,” Dawn said. “I’ve been coming since 1973 as a player or coach … I said I’d love to get there one time. You get to the final four, anything can happen.”
Josh Sullivan; 859-231-3225, @sullyjosh
Sweet Sixteen semifinals
Newport Central Catholic (30-4) vs. Paul Laurence Dunbar (31-6)
When: 6:30 p.m.