With 15 spots decided for the KHSAA Sweet 16, Covington Catholic and Holmes met in the ultimate rubber match Sunday night to decide who would make the trip down I-75 to represent the 9th Region at Rupp Arena.
The two had split their previous match-ups, with Holmes winning the regular season game at Covington Catholic 71-60 in January, and the Colonels returned the favor in the 35th District finals last week, winning 73-72 on a Nick Ruthsatz half-court shot at the buzzer.
At The Bank of Kentucky Center on Northern Kentucky University’s campus, a nearly capacity crowd, including Xavier coach Chris Mack, got their money’s worth, with the teams battling down to the final seconds.
The Colonels led 18-13 after the first quarter, and came out of the break on fire to stretch the lead to 11 before Holmes sophomore James “Beetle” Bolden came to life, scoring 14 points in the quarter to pull the Bulldogs back within striking distance. After Holmes tied the game at 31-all, Covington Catholic surged back ahead to lead 35-31 at the half.
After the break, the Bulldogs were able to tie the game up during a back and forth 3rd quarter, and as time expired in the 3rd quarter, senior DaQuan Palmer hit a 3 from the corner to give Holmes the 48-44 lead.
The Bulldogs extended their lead in the fourth, but fouls began to pile up. Senior Chris Engleman fouled out on a double-foul while attempting to draw a charge on Sawyer Pauley with a little over 3 minutes to play.
Shortly after Bolden was called for his fifth, and the Colonels were able to close the gap to 61-60 with 24 seconds remaining, on a 3 from Nick Fredrick. With 2 seconds to go, Holmes’ Keyontae Herndon hit one of two from the free-throw line, giving the Bulldogs the 2-point edge.
In the final seconds CovCath was able to get a shot off from half-court, but the attempt to replicate the buzzer-beating win from the District finals fell just short. Holmes won with a final score of 62-60, led by 9th Region Tournament MVP Bolden’s 26 points. Ruthsatz led the Colonels with 19.
Holmes will now travel to Lexington to face Pleasure Ridge Park on Wednesday at 1:30 P.M.