High School Basketball

The Sweet Sixteen championship is today. Here’s a preview and prediction.

Scott County's Michael Moreno, left, and Cooper Robb, right, celebrated after as Scott County defeated Trinity in an opening round game at the 101st Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen state basketball tournament being played Wednesday at Rupp Arena in Lexington. This is fourth quarter action. Scott Co. won 54-53 on a 3-pointer by Robb with 5 seconds left in the game.
Scott County's Michael Moreno, left, and Cooper Robb, right, celebrated after as Scott County defeated Trinity in an opening round game at the 101st Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen state basketball tournament being played Wednesday at Rupp Arena in Lexington. This is fourth quarter action. Scott Co. won 54-53 on a 3-pointer by Robb with 5 seconds left in the game. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Covington Catholic and Scott County will face off in the 101st Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen basketball championship Sunday at Rupp Arena.

It’s a renewal of the 2014 finals, out of which Covington Catholic emerged with a 59-51 overtime victory. It was CovCath’s second appearance in the finals and first under head coach Scott Ruthsatz, who’s in his seventh season with the program.

Scott County is in the championship round for the sixth time and the first time since losing to the Colonels four years ago. All of Scott County’s title-game trips have been under Billy Hicks, the state’s all-time winningest coach, who’s been with the program since the 1994-95 season.

Here’s how the teams compare, a brief recap of how they made the championship game and my prediction.

Covington Catholic

Probable starters

1) CJ Fredrick, 6-4, Sr., 22.5 ppg

21) AJ Mayer, 6-3, Sr., 9.0 ppg

22) Aiden Ruthsatz, 5-10, Sr., 14.3 ppg

23) Casey Nowak, 6-0, Sr., 1.5 ppg

44) Jake Walter, 7-1, Sr., 11.7 ppg

How they made the finals

The champions out of the 9th Region will have to win four games in four days to claim their second state title.

CovCath played 3rd Region champion Apollo in the first round on Thursday, advancing with a 71-47 victory. The Colonels avenged one of their two in-state losses in the quarterfinals after knocking out 6th Region champ Fern Creek, 66-58. They followed that late-night win with the first running-clock decision of the tournament, a 67-28 victory over Oldham County in the semifinals.

The Colonels have shot 62.8 percent from the floor through three tournament games (71 of 113). Their opponents have averaged 40-percent shooting (50 of 125).

Sweet Sixteen box scores/play-by-play

FIRST ROUND: Covington Catholic 71, Apollo 47

QUARTERFINALS: Covington Catholic 66, Fern Creek 58

SEMIFINALS: Covington Catholic 67, Oldham County 28

SCOTT COUNTY

Probable starters

2) Bryce Long, 6-1, Jr., 9.4 ppg

10) Cooper Robb, 6-2, Sr., 13.9 ppg

11) Diablo Stewart, 5-9, Jr., 12.1 ppg

14) Glenn Covington, 6-0, Jr., 6.0 ppg

24) Michael Moreno, 6-6, Jr., 20.5 ppg

How they made the finals

The 11th Region champion opened against No. 3 Trinity, who along with CovCath and Scott County was considered one of the favorites to cut the nets on Sunday.

Cooper Robb hit a three-pointer with 5.8 seconds left and the Cardinals survived a game-winning shot attempt as time expired to defeat 7th Region champion Trinity, 54-53, in the first round Wednesday. Scott County then played 13th Region champ Corbin — coached by Tony Pietrowski, one of Hicks’ former players while he was the coach at Corbin — in the quarterfinals, advancing with a 73-62 win. Scott County cruised in the semifinals, playing its best defensive game of the tournament in a 75-46 win over 4th Region champion Warren Central.

Scott County is shooting 48.1 percent through three tournament games (77 of 160). The Cardinals’ opponents are shooting 36.1 percent in the tournament (57 of 158).

Sweet Sixteen box scores/play-by-play

FIRST ROUND: Scott County 54, Trinity 53

QUARTERFINALS: Scott County 73, Corbin 62

SEMIFINALS: Scott County 75, Warren Central 46

Prediction

Both teams played their best games of the tournament in the penultimate round and are firing on all cylinders. They’ve played tremendous schedules, but both will face their toughest test of the year on Sunday.

I think Scott County comes out on top of a hyper-physical, grind-it-out affair. Star junior Michael Moreno hits a buzzer-beater in the final seconds.

Final score: Scott County 49, Covington Catholic 47

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps

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