By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
The Somerset Briar Jumpers and Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds have had some monumental battles on the gridiron throughout the past few decades.
Last night in the opening round of the Boy’s Touchstone Energy All A Classic at Frankfort’s Convention Center, these two old rivals played a version of football on the hardwood, with points of any kind coming at a big-time premium.
In a very low-scoring, grind-it-out affair, it was Jeff Cothron and the Jumpers failing in their bid to cash in on their first appearance in five years at the All A Classic, falling to Newport Central Catholic by a 47-33 margin.
Newport Central Catholic – ranked as high as 13th in some state polls entering the All A Classic – established its inside presence early on in last night’s contest, consistently feeding the ball down in the paint to big men Drew McDonald and Jake Schulte.
And, when that duo wasn’t scoring on the offensive end of the floor, they made things very difficult in Somerset’s half-court sets, with their size and uncanny ability to block shots down in the paint.
“Number one, their length – that were not used to go up against was a factor – as well as number two, they were just more physical than we were,” stated Cothron, after watching his team fall to 14-6 on the year with the loss.
“Most people, because of the two big guys we have inside (Tyson Williams and Ryan Weddle), have been playing a zone against us,” pointed out the SHS coach. “Tonight, Newport Central was really the only team that has played us man to man for that length of time.”
Early on, this one took on the makings of a defensive struggle.
Somerset’s Ryan Dishman made the only three-pointer of the game very late in the first quarter, trimming a 13-5 Thoroughbred lead down to five, 13-8.
However, Newport Central’s Jake Schulte threw down an ally-oop dunk just before the buzzer sounded, giving the Thoroughbreds a 15-8 lead over Somerset after one stanza.
In the second period however, Somerset, despite the fact scoring of any kind was at a premium, was able to fight back in this one.
Ryan Dishman’s layup late in the first half completed a 12-4 run by the Jumpers in the second period, giving Somerset a 20-19 lead at the intermission.
However, that would be the last time Somerset would own a lead in this contest.
McDonald scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the second half while Schulte chipped in with 13 points, helping the Thoroughbreds to eventually pull away from the Briar Jumpers in the second half, moving on to post the 47-33 victory.
“Newport Central’s size on the inside and at other positions as well, and their length defensively were the two biggest issues we had tonight,” stated Cothron.
Indeed, thanks to the Thoroughbreds two big guys clogging up the middle, Somerset’s two big guys of Tyson Williams and Ryan Weddle struggle to get the ball in the basket.
Williams scored 10 points for the Jumpers in the loss while Weddle added two points, but combined, Somerset’s inside tandem made only 3 of 14 field goals attempted.
For the game, the Jumpers made only 11 field goals while turning the ball over 16 times – a combination that on most nights will get a team beat – and it happened to the Jumpers last night against Newport Central Catholic.
“Tyson was in the top 10 in the state making 62 percent of his field goal attempts, while I believe Ryan Weddle was hitting on about 51 percent of his shot attempts,” stated Cothron. “Those guys went 3 for 14 from the field tonight – I don’t give us much of a chance in any game when that happens. To be honest, we were very fortunate to be in that game for three and a half quarters.”
With McDonald and Schulte controlling the paint, Somerset hung tough remaining within striking distance, before the Thoroughbreds eventually pulled the game out to a lead of double figures late in the contest.
The Briar Jumpers were led in scoring by Ryan Dishman who tallied 11 points, while Matt Gordon also hit for double figures with 10 points.
Newport Central Catholic – 19-2 on the year with last night’s win over Somerset – was the favorite to win this year’s All A Classic going into the tournament, and Cothron for one says he didn’t see anything last night that would cause him to pick any other team to win the tourney other than the Thoroughbreds.
“Up to this point of the season, I’d have to say Newport Central is probably the best team that we have played so far,” remarked the Jumper coach.
“I say that primarily due to their physicality on defense and their length,” said Cothron. “We’ve played some teams that have had some size this year and probably better skill players that could shoot it from the outside maybe better than Newport Central, but overall, their ability to guard you the way they do makes them awfully tough.”
Even though his club went down in its first game at the All A Classic in five years, coach Cothron pointed out the whole experience of last night’s game in a big arena was a valuable learning tool, especially for some of the younger kids within the Somerset basketball program.
“I just told the kids in the locker room after the game, that this kind of game is exactly why we brought every kid in our program up to this game tonight,” stated the Somerset coach.
“We even brought two or three kids up to tonight’s game from our middle school,” Cothron added. “We wanted those young kids to see what this experience of the All A Classic is all about. We wanted them to see what it takes to get here, what it takes to be successful here, and then get them used to these surroundings. I’m proud of my team and I’m proud of the way we came out and competed tonight. Our kids did not come out and play intimidated tonight by this environment or Newport Central Catholic, so I’m very proud about that.”
NCC – 15 4 13 15 - 47
SHS – 8 12 5 8 – 33
NEWPORT CENT. CATH. – McDonald 19, Schulte 13, Bueter 11, Pangallo 2, Seibert 2.
SOMERSET – Ryan Dishman 11, Williams 10, Gordon 10, Weddle 2.