Covington Catholic came to Brooksville on Saturday night and defeated the Polar Bears 79-70. The Polar Bears were down by 19 at one point, but battled back and proved they could play with one of the top teams in the state.
“They were solid. They had the extra pass, the never made a mistake, the being there for their teammates. It’s everything we’re trying to build here at Bracken County. So, we take a little piece of Covington Catholic with us after this. We’ll move forward and try to do better to get our guys ready and win one of these big ones.” – Coach Adam Reed
The game started with Blake Reed making two technical free throws putting Bracken County up 2-0. A player for Covington Catholic dunked during warmups and was assessed with a technical foul.
Bracken County started up 4-0. Then Evan Ipsaro did what he does best: driving hard to the lane and pulling up at the mid-range. Ipsaro used this move several times throughout the night to give him 33 points by driving, pulling up, or getting to the free-throw line.
Cayden and Blake Reed took their turns trying to defend the Mr. Basketball candidate. “They both guarded and had their turns,” said Adam Reed, “I felt maybe we should have put Blake on him (Ipsaro) a little earlier because of his size. He kind of just got over top of Cayden.”
Ipsaro scored the first two buckets of the game for CovCath, making 4-4 with six minutes left in the first quarter.
A three from Blake Reed with 4:42 in the first made it a 7-4 Bracken County lead.
Austin Norton followed with a three of his own with four minutes left in the first. Norton shot 6/9 from the field with 9 rebounds. Though he had quiet 13 points, Coach Reed had a lot to say about Norton.
“Austin Norton is an all-region player,” said Reed. He might now get you 20 points a night, but he’s gonna guard the other team’s big, he’s gonna take charges, he’s gonna guard down the stretch defensively, he’s gonna be everywhere on loose balls… He’s everything a coach could want in a player.”
Another three by Blake Reed (he would go 0-4 the rest of the night) made it 13-9 Polar Bears with 2:53 in the first. B. Reed was 2/6 from three and 10/23 overall.
Kascyl McGillis answered with his second straight three to make it 13-12. K. McGillis is shooting 50% from three this season. In fact, Covington Catholic has ten players shooting over 40% from three. They shot 4/14 on Saturday night.
At the end of the first quarter, Covington Catholic led Bracken County 18-15.
Covington Catholic would extend their lead to double digits, 33-23, after a missed three led to a loose ball tip-in on the rebound by Nolan Ruthsatz, son of head coach Scott Ruthsatz.
Rebounding and size were a problem all night for Bracken County. Covington Catholic had 16 offensive rebounds (39 total), 15 second-chance points, and 46 points in the paint. Bracken managed to get 6 offensive rebounds (23 total), 14 second-chance points, and 34 points in the paint.
Covington Catholic led at halftime, 45-36.
In the third quarter, Ipsaro scored 9 straight points for CovCath at the end of the third quarter. The Colonels went on a 14-3 run, eventually extending their lead to 19 points with one minute left in the third.
“He’s (Ipsaro) played in two state tournaments and is going for a third. When you have a kid with that kind of experience and that kind of leadership with the basketball in his hands, he’s going to get loose. And I felt like Blake and Cayden got loose at times, too.”
Coach Ruthsatz said Ipsaro “has been doing that for us for three years now. He can break you down, similar to the Reeds where they can break you down. That’s tough to guard.”
Covington Catholic led at the end of the third 67-51.
The Polar Bears didn’t quit. They went into the fourth quarter with a full-court press. The Bracken defense had 7 steals on the night, with 5 of them coming in the fourth quarter. CovCath had 4 turnovers going into the quarter but had 7 in the fourth.
Backen County had also managed to slow down Ipsaro, who scored only 2 points in the fourth in the last seconds of the game.
Despite the last-ditch effort, it was too late for Bracken, who outscored CovCath 19-12 in the last quarter thanks to a 13-2 run.
For Coach Reed, there wasn’t a moral victory in the single-digit loss to Covington Catholic.
“With a 79-70 loss, we got a lot of ‘you all played great, you played good,’ but we could have won that game. You know, we missed shots, we missed layups, we missed free throws. We could have won that game, and it just doesn’t sit right with me. So, back to the drawing board.” – Coach Adam Reed
Blake Reed finished with 23 points, while Cayden Reed finished with 21 points. This year has started off with the two brothers being closer in scoring than last year.
“Blake is trying to be more of a facilitator and let the game flow to him instead of trying to force shots. If Blake hits his layups and his free throws, he’s scoring 30 every night,” said Coach Reed.
From watching the Polar Bears play on film, Scott Ruthatz knew what the Reed brothers could do going into the game.
“It was real obvious that (Blake and Cayden) could play. They can do a lot of things. (Blake) is more of control the tempo and a shooter. (Cayden) is off the bounce, just crazy getting to the rim… and does everything else.”
JuShod Commodore was injured before the game in an accident at home. He required nineteen stitches and will see a hand specialist.
“Losing JuShod hurt us. His athleticism, his tenacity on defense, and his willingness to be a good teammate.”
Bracken County will take another top 25 team in the state, Ashland, Friday at home. Then, they will face rival Augusta on Saturday at 6:00 pm. Both games will be streamed on PrepSpin.
“We were just excited about the opportunity to play against Covington Catholic in our building. We didn’t back down. We took a couple punches, and we kept fighting back. I’m just proud of our guys; they’re warriors.”