Through the first half of the season, two 9th Region teams have stood out when you discuss the All A Classic. Those two teams are the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds and the defending All A Classic state champions, Holy Cross Indians.
Last season, the Indians defeated the Breds twice during the regular season, including a 63-46 win in the 9th Region All A Championship that eventually led to a state title run for Erik Goetz' squad. This year, the roles are reversed.
As of Monday January 7th, the NewCath Thoroughbreds are 12-1 with their only loss coming to Louisville Trinity, who is a top 5 team in the state. The Breds are led by 6’1 senior Michael Bueter, but it is the front court of 6’8 junior Jake Schulte, 6’7 sophomore Drew McDonald, and 6’6 senior Nick Seibert that has made it so tough for opposing teams to defend the #1 team in the region.
"Newport Catholic enters the tourney as the clear favorite as the number 1 overall team in NKY," said Holy Cross coach Erik Goetz. "They have all the ingredients you need to win a championship – size, ball handling, balance, and experience – and will be a tough out for any opponent."
Despite the high praise from the Indians’ coach, NewCatg head coach Grant Brannen knows that it will be tough for not only his team, but any team to get out of this region.
"Without question, our region is the toughest to get out of, compared to any other region in the state and to be honest it’s not even close. I always say if you get out of our region, you have accomplished something."
Brannen continued, "St. Henry, Holy Cross, and Newport all have teams that are capable of beating anyone. Some coaches and I have talked and believe whoever makes it from our region will compete for a state title. It’s not like a couple years ago (the state tournament) when we played Shelby Valley and would have had to play perfect to beat them. It’s wide open."
The other favorite, Holy Cross, comes in with an 8-6 record but Coach Goetz believes his team has improved since early December. Much like Grant Brannen, Goetz knows his team will have to play well if they want to get back to the state tournament.
"We feel like we have a very difficult path to the regional finals in this bracket. We would probably face district rival, Beechwood, in our first game and Newport is on our side of the bracket as well. They are very good and have beaten us once already this season."
Still, a tough early season schedule has prepared the Indians for a tournament like this and a big game atmosphere.
"We have played a very difficult schedule already – with two more difficult opponents this week in Bishop Brossart (10th Region favorite) and Madison Central (top 5 in the state) – in preparation for this tournament.
Goetz continued, "We have had many ups and downs and have played very inconsistently. Our schedule is designed to expose all of our team’s flaws so that we can best prepare to take on the quality opponents and adverse situations that we will face in tournament play."
Here is a look at this years’ bracket/schedule:
Games will be held Monday January 14th - Saturday January 19th at Bellevue High School.
Newcath vs Villa Madonna (6:00 at Dayton)
Heritage Academy vs Dayton (7:30 at Dayton)
Beechwood vs Cov. Latin (6:00)
Newport vs Lloyd (7:30)
Beechwood/Cov Latin winner vs Holy Cross (6:00)
Newport/Lloyd winner vs Ludlow (7:30)
Newcath/Villa Madonna winner vs Bellevue (6:00)
Heritage/Dayton winner vs St. Henry (7:30)
Friday 1/18- Semi Finals
Newcath/Villa Madonna/Bellevue winner v Heritage/Dayton/St. Henry winner (6:00)
Beechwood/Cov Latin/Holy Cross winner v Newport/Lloyd/Ludlow winner (7:30)
Saturday 1/19 - Championship 7:00
Both the semi finals and finals can be watched live and on demand at nkysports.com under the webcasts link.
The winner of the 9th Region Championship will play the winner of the 12th region winner Thursday 1/24 at 6:30 at the Frankfort Convention Center.
Ranking the teams:
1. Newport Catholic (12-1)
2. Holy Cross (8-6)
3. Newport (9-4)
4. St. Henry (5-9)
5. Lloyd (5-9)
6. Beechwood (3-8)
7. Villa Madonna (6-7)
8. Ludlow (4-7)
9. Covington Latin A
10. Bellevue (6-7)
11. Dayton (1-8)