BluegrassPreps.com 9th Region Tournament Finals Review and Sweet 16 Preview
...And then there was one.
Unsurprisingly, the Covington Catholic Colonels reign supreme as the top team in the 9th Region by merit of beating The Dixie Heights Colonels in the 9th Region Tournament Finals this past Tuesday, March 8 at the BB&T Arena at NKU. For the entire season they remained at the top of the 9th Region rankings, as well as being in various spots within the Top 5 in the state. This would be the 14th 9th Region title for the Colonels overall, and the 6th under Scott Ruthsatz's tutelage during his tenure including 2 state titles in 2014, and 2018. In 2020 the Colonels were highly favored in the Sweet 16 that never was due to COVID.
As is their due reward for winning the 9th Region, the Colonels will now enter the revered 100+ years old Kentucky Boys Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, and spend St. Patrick's day playing their first round game against Region 16's 3 ball phenoms, the Ashland Blazer Tomcats, a team that Covington Catholic lost to in Ashland on January 29th, 71-60.
Game is scheduled as the nightcap game on the 2nd day of first round games at 8:30 PM. The Sweet 16 Tournament runs March 16-19, and now the tournament is back to having the semifinals on Saturday morning, and the Championship game on Saturday night after recently, a handful of years unpopularly holding the championship game on Sunday afternoons.
While there are no foregone conclusions in the Sweet 16, The Colonels, if making it to the Saturday night Championship game will in 4 games have to potentially face 3 Top 5 teams in the state. The semifinals potentially have them facing the Male Bulldogs from Region 7, a team that they've already played twice this season where they split with CovCath winning the first contest during the King of the Bluegrass at Fairdale 68-56 where the Colonels went on to win the KOB Tournament, and then Male beat the Colonels on Jan 22 in Lousiville, 73-68. If the Colonels manage to make it to the finals, they'll likely have to face the Number 1 team in the state, the George Rogers Clark Cardinals (33-1) from Regoin 10 who have gone undefeated this season against Kentucky competition with one lone loss on December 19 during the King of the Bluegrass against Dorman from South Carolina, 59-57.
The Colonels will bring to the Sweet 16 an undeniable strong, and fierce attack starting with junior guard Evan Ipsaro who is averaging 21.7 ppg, and is arguably the finest guard in the state. You'd be hard pressed to ever see Evan make a false move on the court where he is as sure handed, and lightening fast as you could ever want as your team's floor general. Ipsaro has gotten an offer from Cleveland State, but during his senior year he is expected to recieve many more D1 offers.
To complement Ipsaro's greatness, the Colonels have what so many teams could only wish they had is a true big man in the paint in senior MIami of Ohio commit, 6'8" Mitchell Rylee who is averaging 16.5 ppg, and most likely holds some team, region, or state record for dunks in a season. The fans at Rupp will undoubtedly be treated to many more to the point that every time Rylee touches the ball they'll expect it. Both Ipsaro and Rylee, if the Colonels manage to win the Sweet 16, will quickly become household names around the state.
To make matters worse for the Colonel's opponents, there's the powerful tight end looking 6'6" junior Chandler Starks who only helps other teams suffer more when trying to get a rebound. He sure is a load down low averaging nearly 10 ppg.
To round out the starting five there is junior guard Kascyl McGillis who tops the team with 63 3's scored while averaging nearly 8 ppg, and sophomore Brasy Hussey averaging 6.5 ppg. Coming off the bench for the Colonel's reliable 6th man is James Wilson who averages 5.4 ppg. We'll likely also see some limited playing time minutes by the reliable likes of Noah Johnson, Ayden Link, and Colin Detzel.
How we got here:
Before getting ahead of ourselves, I would be remiss if I didn't first talk about the 9th Region Championship game that was held on Tuesday, March 8 at the BB&T Arena at NKU.
The Covington Catholic Colonels, after beating first the Cooper Jaguars in a mostly close battle 49-37, and then the Lloyd Juggernauts who came at the Colonels with all their might only to lose 71-52, faced in the 9th Region Finals the Dixie Heights Colonels who first took care of business with the Newport Wildcats 51-37, then in a balanced attack beat the Jacob Meyer lead Holy Cross Indians 65-57.
The Colonels served the Red Colonels their season ending loss, 59-43, sending them off with a very nice win/loss record of 22-7 in their very successful season.
The final score does not indicate how close the game was until the game’s final three minutes. CovCath did not build a double-digit lead at 49-38 until the tournament’s most valuable player in 6-foot-8-inch senior Mitchell Rylee converted a three-point play on an assist from junior guard Evan Ipsaro with 2:02 left in the game. Rylee ended the night with a team, and overall game high of 25 points.
Congratulations to the Dixie Heights Colonels on their sensational season, and good luck to their seniors Kiernan Geraci, Billy Wogenstahl, Logan Landers, Jay Flynn, and Pierce Rohlman. You've given the 9th Region fans a couple of years of varsity excellence, and you will be surely missed.
9th Region All-Tournament Team:
Covington Catholic – Mitchell Rylee (MVP), Chandler Starks, Evan Ipsaro
Dixie Heights – Kiernan Geraci, Jay Flynn
Holy Cross – Jacob Meyer, Sam Gibson
Lloyd Memorial – Ryan Davis, Garrett Vogelpohl
Conner – Dalton Kramer
Highlands – Will Herald
Newport – Evan Snapp
Cooper – Caleb Brooks
For a super detailed layout of the 9th Region championship game, here's a very good and complete article from LinkNky (previously the River City News).
Good luck to the Covington Catholic Colonels!
We here in the 9th Region know that you will make us proud. You've got what it takes, and we hope that you bring the hardware home. Go now with the Crazies in tow, and woo the fans in the stands at Rupp Arena, and have the time of your life following your dreams of reigning supreme as the 2022 Kentucky Boys Sweet 16 Champs!!!