Poor Shooting Looms Large, Oldham County Eliminated by GRC

FINAL STATS

Postgame Press Conference

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Two single-point quarters coupled with just a 36.7 percent shooting performance saw Oldham County fall to George Rogers Clark 54-47 in the KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena.

GRC (20-4) jumped out to a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter despite shooting just 4-for-11 in the quarter but forced five turnovers by the Colonels.

Aden Slone paced the Cardinals with eight points in the opening stanza and would finish the game with 12 points, five assists and four rebounds.

Oldham County (14-5) was stifled by the interior defensive presence by GRC despite being the taller team.

GRC led by 11 on three different occasions in the second quarter, but Oldham County was able to put together a stretch that saw a 25-14 deficit cut down to 27-22 with 1:44 to go in the half.

Slone’s jumper with 30 seconds to go in the quarter and Jerone Morton’s dunk at the buzzer would put the Cardinals up 31-22 at the half.

Morton, who was held scoreless in the first quarter, keyed the offensive output for GRC by scoring 12 of the team’s 18 points in the second period.

Oldham County would see possibly its worst quarter of shooting all season at the worst possible time when the Colonels tallied a mere six points in the third quarter on 3-for-17 shooting (17.6 percent).

GRC, however, was not able to capitalize on the lackluster shooting from the Colonels and only increased its halftime lead by four at the end of the third, 41-28.

Oldham County was able to make things interesting in the fourth quarter by outrebounding GRC 11-7 and Samuel Campbell scoring nine of his team-high 16 points in the final period.

Jeremiah Mundy’s basket in the paint with 6:58 to go in the game increased GRC’s lead to 43-30, but the Cardinals would not score again until Stanley Smothers made a layup 2:38 later.

During that 2:38 of game clock, Oldham County was able to score just four points.

Too many wasted possessions that ended in either turnovers or missed shots almost seemed to draw all the energy out of the Colonels, yet they continued to have a chance due to Slone missing three consecutive front ends of a single-bonus free throw situation.

Campbell would make things interesting late with a pair of long-range shots to whittle the deficit to 51-47 with 0:35 to go in the game but could not make it any closer before the final horn sounded.

Jared Wellman pitched in 10 points for the Cardinals, who advance to Friday’s first quarterfinal game to take on Elizabethtown at 11 a.m.

Tyler Slone tallied 15 points and seven rebounds for Oldham County while Grant Gibson added 10.

Xander Wagner-Rose hauled in a game-time 11 rebounds for the Colonels.

GRC edged Oldham County 30-20 in the paint and 15-8 off turnovers.

If the Cardinals can get past Elizabethtown, they have to do a better job of crashing the boards after Oldham County won the rebounding battle 33-24.

Madison Central Rally Falls Short, Ballard Moves On 70-61

FINAL STATS

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Madison Central’s late push was not enough to overcome a 17-point fourth quarter deficit as Ballard advances 70-61 in the KHSAA Boys Sweet 16.

Ballard (20-2) showed its speed throughout the game and won numerous statistical categories, but Madison Central wouldn’t let the Bruins run away with the game like the first two games of the day.

After Ballard’s Keno Hayden scored two of his game-high 26 points at the 5:05 mark in the fourth quarter to put the Bruins up 58-41, Madison Central went on an 8-0 run over the next two minutes.

Madison Central (21-10) would then find itself behind by 15 with 2:31 to go in the game thanks to a Hayden 3-point play with 2:31 to go, but the Indians kept fighting and cut it down to 66-61 on a 12-2 run.

Hayden closed out the game with a pair of free throws and a dunk.

Ballard led 20-16 after the first quarter and kept Madison Central from scoring over the course of a 5:06 stretch in the second quarter.

Neither team shot particularly well from the field, but the difference in the game was the Bruins being able to use their athleticism to win the points off turnovers (16-6), points in the paint (42-20) and fast break points (14-2) categories.

Ballard narrowly outrebounded the Indians by a 37-34 count as the Indians had no answer for the Bruins’ Maker Bar, who hauled in 14 boards that accompanied his 11 points.

Gabe Sisk chipped in 19 points and seven rebounds for the Bruins.

Kole Browne led Madison Central in scoring with 21 points on just 6-for-16 shooting from the field.

Browne was 2-for-7 from long range and 7-of-10 from the charity stripe.

Jalen Davis scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half and collected seven rebounds.

Will Hardin closed out the double-figure scoring for the Indians with 15 points to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ballard will now set its sights on a Bowling Green team that handily defeated University Heights early in the tournament 85-57.

The Ballard/Bowling Green quarterfinal game is set to begin on Fri., April 2 at 2 p.m.

Purples Reign Supreme, Defeat University Heights 85-57

FINAL STATS

LEXINGTON, Ky. – What started out as a tightly contested game turned into the second blowout in as many contests to open the 2021 KHSAA Sweet 16 as Bowling Green cruised past University Heights 85-57.

The opening quarter saw six lead changes and four ties with Bowling Green taking an 18-17 lead into the second quarter.

Bowling Green (24-2) would double up the Blazers 48-24 in the second and third quarters combined to put any hopes of a UHA upset to rest.

UHA (15-10) did have some bright spots, but Bowling Green was just too powerful and used its length to dominate the boards.

Bowling Green outrebounded UHA by a 49-25 count including a whopping 32 rebounds in the second half.

The Purples were led in scoring by Turner Buttry with 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting with 3-for-4 shooting from long range and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe.

Buttry’s 50-plus foot shot at the halftime buzzer was the icing on the cake of a 24-11 quarter that saw the Purples go on a 12-5 run over the final 3:22 of the stanza.

Isaiah Mason, a Northern Kentucky University signee, poured in 16 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes of action for Bowling Green.

Jacobi Huddleston added a double-double for the Purples with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

Bowling Green played extremely an unselfish, team-oriented game that saw 24 assists on 31 made shots.

UHA saw K.J. Crump tie Bowling Green’s Buttry to most points scored with 20 despite only shooting 7-for-18 from the field.

Bowling Green used its size to cause UHA havoc inside the arc and limited the Blazers to just 28 points in the paint to the Purples’ 44.

D.J. Bryan added 16 points and five assists for the Blazers, who shot just 34.4 percent for the game.

Bowling Green advances on to take on the winner of the Madison Central/Ballard game in the quarterfinals beginning at 2 p.m. on Friday.

Elizabetown Overpowers Knott Co. Central 87-59, Advances to Elite 8

FINAL STATS

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Outstanding pressure defense forcing numerous turnovers that led to easy buckets helped Elizabethtown dismantle Knott County Central 87-59 in Game 1 of the KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16.

Elizabethtown (20-2) fell behind 8-6 just three minutes into the game, but the Panthers used a 17-0 run over 3:18 of game time to take a 23-8 lead. The run was punctuated by a Jaquais Franklin fast-break dunk that was assisted by Kam Sherrard.

Anytime Knott County Central would turn the ball over or miss a shot, the race was on for the Panthers to get the ball out and score quickly.

Knott County Central (18-8) would be hampered in the first quarter by foul trouble from their star Colby Napier.

Napier, who went into the game averaging 21 ppg, picked up his third foul with just 20 seconds remaining in the opening stanza.

The woes for the Patriots would continue just 28 seconds into the second quarter when Napier picked up his fourth foul and was forced to the bench for the rest of the first half.

Elizabethtown, who some have picked to make it to at least the semifinals, only needed seven points off the bench to easily take down the Patriots.

Franklin led all scorers with 25 points on 9-for-11 shooting with two made 3-pointers and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. Franklin would also lead the Panthers with seven rebounds and tied for the lead with Khia Sherrard in assists with seven.

Elizabethtown’s dominance in the first half shined bright in the halftime stats as the Panthers shot 57 percent from the field and only committed three turnovers while forcing KCC into 12 of their own.

The Panthers turned those opportunities into easy baskets totaling 23 points off turnovers.

Sixteen rebounds and 14 assists also spurred Elizabethtown to a 49-28 lead at the half.

KCC would show signs of life to begin the third quarter thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Napier to cut the deficit to 49-34, but the next 4:12 of game time essentially ended any hope of a comeback as Elizabethtown went on a 14-0 run to make it 63-36 with 2:43 left in the quarter.

Elizabethtown forced five turnovers during that run and 20 for the game.

One bright spot for the game for the Patriots was the play of Josh McGuire.

McGuire would be the lone Patriot to step up in Napier’s scoring absence throughout the game and led KCC with 21 points and 10 rebounds. The rest of the Patriots totaled just 12 additional rebounds for the entirety of the game.

The fourth quarter was just a formality with the Panthers edging out the Patriots by a 17-16 margin in the stanza after the Patriots were run down from chasing the Panthers down all game long.

Elizabethtown would see all five starters score in double figures including Kam Sherrard with 16 and his brother Khia chipping in 13.

Alandre Murphy added 15 points to go along with 11 from Camden Williams.

Jacob Moberly had seven off the bench for the Panthers.

Napier would finish with 13 points despite being in foul trouble all game.

Kent Damron, Kizer Slone and Jayden Huff added five each for KCC while Drake Slone (4), Evin Eversole (4) and Scott Shepherd (2) rounded out the scoring.

Elizabethtown won nearly all facets of the game, but the most impressive stats were the offensive rebounds (17), points off turnovers (34), fast break points (26) and points in the paint (58).

Elizabethtown advances on to take on the winner of George Rogers Clark and Oldham County in the Elite 8 on Friday morning at 11 a.m.

16 Things to Know About the Sweet Sixteen

By Troy Howell
For Bluegrass Basketball

1. One year later – Elizabethtown, Ashland, Knox Central, McCracken County, and George Rogers Clark are all back in the field after also winning the region last year. The 2020 tournament was cancelled so I am happy for all these teams now that they get to play in Rupp Arena after having it ripped away from them last year.

2. Football powerhouses – Bowling Green, Boyle County, Paintsville, and Ashland won football titles in the spring and are 4 games away from doing the same in basketball. The other two state champions (Beechwood and Trinity) both had good years on the hardwood as well. Elizabethtown, the top ranked basketball team going in to the Sweet 16, lost in the 3A finals to Ashland. Highlands, winners of the 9th region last week, are a traditional power on the gridiron.

3. Heavy favorites – Two of the first-round games are expected to be very lopsided. Elizabethtown comes in as the top ranked team in the field, while their opponent, Knott County Central is rated at the bottom of the sixteen teams. Another heavy favorite is Bowling Green over University Heights Academy. The Purples have been near the top of the rankings all year and defeated the Blazers by a score of 88-50 in a road win on February 1. Let’s hope the game is a little more competitive this time!

4. Missing Star Power – Sophomore Reed Sheppard (North Laurel), sophomore Kaleb Glenn (Male), freshman Travis Perry (Lyon County), senior Zion Harmon (Marshall County) and senior Ben Johnson (Lexington Catholic) all missed out on the state tournament. The tournament still features some of the top seniors in the state including Northern Kentucky University commits Sam Vinson (Highlands) and Isaiah Mason (Bowling Green).

5. 2013 Finals Rematch – The Madison Central vs Ballard first round game will bring back memories of the epic 2013 state finals. Madison Central defeated Ballard 65-64 on a last-second shot by Ken-Jah Bosley. The Madison Central team featured Dominique Hawkins (Kentucky) while Ballard was led by Quinten Snider (Louisville) and Kelan Martin (Butler).

6. Best Draw – Highlands is the only top 4 team in the bottom half of the draw. The Bluebirds got a good draw and will be favored to make the finals. Ashland may be their toughest competition to get there, but Highlands beat the Tomcats 84-75 in the opening game of the season.

7. Toughest Draw – After knocking off then #1 Lexington Catholic and then top #8 Frederick Douglass in the 11th region tournament, the path doesn’t get any easier for the Madison Central Indians. They may have to go through the gauntlet of Ballard, Bowling Green, and Elizabethtown just to make the finals.

8. Buzzer Beaters – George Rogers Clark and Paintsville both won their region tournament at the buzzer on Saturday. Jerone Morton’s layup gave GRC and 60-59 win over Campbell County in the 10th region finals. Jaxon Watt’s put back at the buzzer gave Paintsville a wild 48-46 overtime win over bitter rival Johnson Central in the 15th region finals.

9. Chaos in the 6th – Bullitt East won the 6th region despite being left out of the top 10 of the region’s preseason coaches’ poll. After knocking off region favorite DeSales 62-58 in the region semis, the Charges got by Western 69-49 in a surprise finals matchup. Western stunned Fern Creek in the other semifinal.

10. Individual Stats – Jevonte Turner (Knox Central) averages 26.3 points. Turner Buttry (Bowling Green) is shooting 94.8% from the charity stripe, while Luke Imfeld (Boyle County) is shooting 87.5% from the line. Luke Muller (Highlands) makes 3.6 treys a game (45%). Maker Bar (Ballard) is pulling down 10.8 rebounds per game.

11. Team Stats – Highlands (83.5 points per game), George Rogers Clark (78.6), Elizabethtown (76.9), and Ballard (76) are all top 10 in the state in scoring. Muhlenberg County (44.1) and Bowling Green (47.2) are top 10 in scoring defense. Highlands (54.5%) leads the Sweet 16 field in field goal shooting percentage. Highlands (75.9%) and Oldham County (75.5%) are top 10 in free throw percentage. George Rogers Clark (38.7 rebounds) is first in the state in rebounding.

12. Margin of Victory – Half of the top 10 in margin of victory are in the Sweet 16 field: Bowling Green (20.6 points), GRC (19.9), Highlands 19.5), Elizabethtown (18.7) and Knox Central 17.9).

13. My Rankings: 1. Elizabethtown 2. Ballard 3. Highlands 4. Bowling Green 5. Ashland 6. Muhlenberg County, 7. Oldham County 8. Madison Central 9. George Rogers Clark 10. Boyle County 11. McCracken County 12. Knox Central 13. Bullitt East 14. University Heights 15. Paintsville 16. Knott County Central

14. Return to old Format – In order to not conflict with Easter, the KHSAA is going back to the Wednesday – Saturday format for this year. I personally prefer ending on Saturday, but it does mean a team like Ashland would need to win 4 games in 48 hours in order to take home the trophy. The 2 P.M. start time for the second semifinal seems a bit late for a short turnaround before the 8 o’clock finals.

15. Purples Rematches: If Bowling Green is to win the state title, they may have to go through University Heights, Ballard, Elizabethtown, and Ashland, four teams that they have already played this year. Here were the regular season results.

Bowling Green 88 University Heights 50

Ballard 61 Bowling Green 45

Elizabethtown 64 Bowling Green 36

Bowling Green 83 Ashland 57

16. Bruins just Getting Started: Not only is Ballard one of the favorites this year, they will likely be the preseason favorite next season as well. They are led by juniors Maker Bar and Kennedy Hayden, and sophomore Gabe Sisk. Sophomore point guard Jack Edelen, who was lost for the year due to injury, will return next year to make the Bruins even deeper and stronger.

Franklin County Lady Flyers Are Back in the Sweet 16 

By Greg Lawson
For Bluegrass Basketball

In a season, and a regional championship, that was completely unconventional – the outcome was completely conventional. The Franklin County Lady Flyers won their fifth 11th region title in the last seven years, and their sixth in school history. Their latest title came at the expense of the Lafayette Lady Generals who raised some eyebrows by posting on social media, “#notdoneyette as we EARN our way to the region championship this Saturday!” Most readers saw this as a reference to the fact that Franklin County and Tates Creek were unable to play their semi-final matchup due to a positive case of COVID-19 in the Lady Commodore program, forcing them to withdraw from the 11th region tournament.   

Whether the forfeit gave Franklin County any real advantage was unclear. What was clear in this championship game was that Lafayette had Franklin County’s full attention, especially on the defensive end. FCHS shut out the Lady Generals in the first quarter, ending the frame ahead 13-0. They methodically stretched their lead in second and third quarters, at one point pushing the margin to over 20. Lafayette was able to cut into the lead as the fourth quarter progressed and using a full court press with their starters against the Lady Flyer third-stringers, Lafayette was able to push the final score to 53-38.

And, with that, Joey Thacker leads the Lady Flyer program back to the Sweet 16. The 11th region champion faces a tough road to the championship. Franklin County will face the 13th region champion in the first round of the Sweet 16 held at Rupp Arena on Wednesday, April 7th at 5:00 pm. The 13th region will crown their champion Monday, March 29. If the Lady Flyers get through the first round, most likely will have a rematch with the number one team in the state, Anderson County. The Lady Bearcats defeated Franklin County 64-32 on January 12. It should be a great week of basketball at Rupp Arena for the Girls’ Sweet 16. Watch out for the 11th region champs, the Wizard and his lady birds might have a few tricks left up their sleeve after they EARNED their way back to the state tournament.

Final score

Franklin County 53

Lafayette 38

Vinson Leads Highlands to 9th Region Title to End 20-Year Sweet 16 Drought

Thanks to a second-half comeback, Highlands is in the KHSAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001 after defeating Conner 77-67 in the 9th Region championship game at the Evans Fieldhouse in Covington.

Sam Vinson was one of five in double figures for Highlands after shooting 6-of-12 from the field with one made 3-pointer and 8-for-9 shooting from the charity stripe.

Vinson, a candidate for Mr. Basketball and an NKU recruit, added eight rebounds, four blocks, two steals and two assists to take home Most Valuable Player honors throughout the tournament.

Highlands (25-4) trailed 40-30 early in the third quarter before going on a 14-0 run to take a 44-40 lead.

The third quarter run and eventual win for the Bluebirds was keyed by outstanding shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.

Highlands shot 15-for-38 from beyond the arc for the game including 9-of-19 in the second half.

Zach Barth, Luke Muller and William Herald drained four 3-pointers each for head coach Kevin Listerman.

Barth finished with 15 points while Muller added 14 and Herald chipped in 12. Oliver Harris closed out the double-digit scoring with 10 points for the Bluebirds.

Conner (17-6) was led by Ayden Lohr’s brilliant 18-point performance that saw him knock down 5-of-10 shots from the field including a pair of 3-pointers. Lohr was also perfect from the free throw line going 6-for-6.

The Cougars lost despite outrebounding Highlands by a 44-29 count including 15 from Cole Skiles.

Skiles, a senior forward, added 10 points to complete the only double-double by either team.

Luke Hamilton made four 3-pointers and five free throws to pitch in 17 points for the Cougars.

Highlands was able to contain Conner’s top two scorers in Riley Osterbur and Spencer Couzins, who averaged a combined 28.1 per game going into the finals.

Osterbur was held to eight points while Couzins tallied 10. The duo was just 7-for-26 from the field, 1-for-6 from beyond the arc and 3-for-6 from the free throw line.

Highlands was able to protect the ball throughout the game committing just six turnovers while forcing Conner into 11 of their own.

With Highlands ending its streak of not qualifying for the Sweet 16 at 20 years, the streak continues for Conner, which has not won the 9th Region title since 1993.

Highlands advances to face the winner of the 3rd Region in the 11 a.m. contest on Thurs., April 1.

Muhlenberg County and Owensboro Catholic face off in 3rd Region title game on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Owensboro Sportscenter.

Golden Eagles Tame Bobcats, Advance to 15th Region Finals Against Paintsville

Johnson Central withstood an early deficit before coming back and pulling away from Betsy Layne 72-55 in the 15th Region semifinals at the Appalachian Wireless Arena. Johnson Central (21-3) advances to Saturday’s region championship game against crosstown rival Paintsville at 7:30 p.m. The Golden Eagles were once again led by Cory VanHoose in scoring with 21 points. VanHoose, a senior guard/forward combo, is looking to give his school its first win over Paintsville in the 15th Region finals. The two schools have met in the title game in 1985 and 2008 with Paintsville coming out on top in both contests. Tommy McKenzie has propelled the Golden Eagles to consistent success since taking over the head coaching reigns at Johnson Central. McKenzie, Johnson Central’s head coach since the 2007-08 season, has now led the Golden Eagles to 11 region championship games and will be seeking his 6th trip to the Sweet 16. If Johnson Central is to advance, the Golden Eagles will need another brilliant performance from VanHoose and his teammates as well as taking care of the ball like they did against Betsy Layne. VanHoose hauled in 10 rebounds to complete a double-double performance in the semifinals as well as dishing out four assists and forcing four turnovers. Isaiah May and Ryleh McKenzie joined VanHoose in double-digit scoring. Johnson Central committed just eight turnovers on the night while forcing 18 from the Bobcats. Betsy Layne (13-9) shot just 35.4 percent from the field including a 5-for-15 performance from beyond the arc. The Bobcats were without Jordan Frazier, the team’s leading scorer, during the postseason. Brady Robinson, who was the Betsy Layne’s second leading scorer with an average of 20 points per game, did all he could to keep his team in the game with 18 points and five rebounds, but the lack of another go-to scorer eventually did the Bobcats in against Johnson Central. Chase Mims (12) and Byron Tackett (11) were the team’s other double-digit scorers. Johnson Central easily won the points in the paint battle by a 40-24 margin as well as a 19-15 advantage in second chance points despite being outrebounded 37-30.    

Conner Lemaster sinks a three. Photo Courtesy of Golden Eagle Network

  

Frederick Douglass edges Dunbar for first ever region final

By Troy Howell
For Bluegrass Basketball

Frederick Douglass edges Dunbar to advance to first ever region FinalThe Frederick Douglass Broncos are in the 11th region finals for the first time in the school’s young history after defeating Dunbar 56-55 at EKU. They withstood a furious Bulldog rally in order to do so.

  

The Broncos were able to build an 32-24 halftime lead with Dunbar’s star player on the bench in the first half with two fouls. Dashawn Jackson, an EKU commit, caught fire for Douglass in the 3rd quarter to help them build a double-digit lead. He looked right at home playing in his future gym, posting 24 points, 4 assists and 2 steals. But Dunbar got back in the game thanks to forcing several turnovers. A Max VanDyke 3-pointer, Tim Hall dunk, Nick Spalding bucket, and Hall layup helped them get back in striking distance.

Dunbar, who trailed most of the game, had a chance to take the lead with but lost the ball with 52 seconds left after the Broncos forced a jump ball and claimed the possession arrow. Jackson cashed in a layup a few seconds later to push the lead to 56-53.  

After a pair of Hall free throws cut the Broncos’ lead to 1 with 35 seconds remaining, Frederick Douglass played keep away until Dunbar fouled them with 16 seconds remaining, but the Bulldogs still had a foul to give. They were finally able to put Douglass on the line with only six tickets remaining.  

 

The Broncos missed the front end of the bonus, but were able to contest the rebound and burned off valuable time until Dunbar was finally able to call a timeout with only 2.7 seconds remaining. It was too little, too late. Having to go the length of the court, the Bulldogs desperation heave from beyond half court fell harmlessly to the ground.

 

For Douglass, Kai Simpson finished with 13 points while Tyson Barrett added 11 points including a highlight slam. He was 5-of-8 from the field. Tim Hall lead Dunbar with 15 points and 12 boards. Nick Spalding added 11.

The future is bright for the #10 ranked Bulldogs. They lose no seniors from a team that defeated Lexington Catholic twice. The Knights held the top state ranking for most of the season. Hall and Spalding will be two of the top ranked players in the 11th region next season.

It was an exciting night for Douglass, who avenged their only loss of the season, a 75-68 loss to Dunbar on January 12. The Broncos, currently ranked #8 in the state, have now won 17 straight games. They play in the region finals on Saturday at 5:30 at EKU. They will face Madison Central, who defeated Franklin County 67-51.

 

 

Highlands and Conner Advance to Friday’s 9th Region Championship

Sam Vinson’s 20 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists led Highlands past St. Henry 74-68 as the Bluebirds are now one win away from their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2001.

Vinson, a Northern Kentucky University signee, was one of five Bluebirds to crack double digits on the night for head coach Kevin Listerman’s squad including Zachary Barth, Luke Muller, Oliver Harris and William Herald.

Sam Vinson (3) goes up for one of his 13 rebounds. (Photo courtesy Bob Jackson)

Barth totaled 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting including a pair of 3-pointers.

Harris and Herald netted 13 points apiece while Muller added 12.

The first quarter was close from the opening throw-in to the buzzer, but Highlands (25-4) took a 21-19 lead into the second quarter where the Bluebirds stretched out their lead to 36-27 at halftime.

Highlands would take its largest lead at 41-27 with the first basket of the third quarter and was able to eventually stave off a furious rally attempt by the Crusaders.

St. Henry (18-4) had previous defeated Highlands this season on Jan. 9 by an 82-80 score and won the All “A” Class title just over two weeks,

The Crusaders were led by Wyatt Vieth’s 22 points, five assists, three steals and two blocked shots.

Vieth, who will be joining Scotty Davenport’s Bellarmine Knights in the fall, was 9-for-19 from the field and gave his team everything he could from start to finish.

Wyatt Vieth (12) puts up a contest shot against William Herald (15). (Photo courtesy Bob Jackson)

Jude Bessler notched a double=double in his final game for St. Henry with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Cory Shea turned in an awesome performance for St. Henry with 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals, but the Crusaders were unable to overcome a 38.6 shooting performance for the game.

St. Henry won the points in the paint battle by a 26-12 margin, but Highlands was able to better convert turnovers into points. The Bluebirds forced 12 turnovers by the Crusaders and rack up 21 points while St, Henry only got 13 points off 15 Highlands turnovers.

Cougars advance past Colonels

Landen Hamilton and Spencer Couzins tallied 19 points each as Conner easily defeated Dixie Heights 71-54.

Conner (17-6) was lights out from beyond the arc and led by Couzins and Hamilton with five made 3-pointters apiece.

Dixie Heights (21-6) won the previous meeting between the two squads by a 70-50 final on Jan. 12 and had been playing extremely well in recent weeks including a win over Covington Catholic in last week’s 34th District championship game.

Spencer Couzins drives the lane for two of his 19 points for Conner. (Photo courtesy Bob Jackson)

The Colonels were led in scoring by Jasom Summe with 18 points and he was closely followed by Kiernan Geraci, who netted 13 points.

Conner will be playing for its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1993.

The Cougars and Bluebirds will face off in the 9th Region title game at Holmes High School’s Evans Fieldhouse on Friday night with the game starting at 7 p.m.