Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

December 28, 2012

NewCath fends off Boyd rally

ASHLAND — Boyd County dug a seemingly inescapable hole in the opening game of the 58th Ashland Invitational Tournament.

Thanks to their dismal first half of 2-for-19 shooting and 13 turnovers, the Lions found themselves down by 18 points early in the fourth quarter against unbeaten Newport Central Catholic.

But in a familiar scene, Boyd County staged a valiant comeback that had NewCath scrambling for a 69-62 victory at James A. Anderson Gymnasium.

Austin Hunt and Grayson Griffith led a charge that brought the Lions within 65-62 on Bobby Anderson’s follow shot with 41 seconds remaining.

“They’ve got a lot of fight in them,” Boyd County coach Randy Anderson said.

NCC weathered the storm, however, prevailing thanks to senior guard Michael Bueter’s huge night and late free throws.

Bueter snapped Boyd County’s 9-0 run by sinking two free throws with 27 seconds left. After the Lions missed a 3-point attempt, Bueter returned to the foul line with 11 seconds to go and connected on two more to set the final score.

“He’s our captain, and played so steady,” NewCath coach Grant Brannen said. “Without Michael on the court we don’t win today.”

Bueter scored 22 of his career-high 29 points in the second half. He was 10-for-16 from the field, converted 7 of 8 free throws and also boosted the team with his passing and ballhandling.

What mattered most to Bueter is that the Thoroughbreds hung on at the end despite foul problems and eight turnovers in the final period.

“Their pressure got to us in the fourth quarter,” Bueter said. “Plus we were picking up fouls like it was our job. Once a team gets the momentum, it’s hard to get it back. But we survived.”

NewCath, 9-0 and ranked No.1 in Northern Kentucky, will play Russell in tonight’s first semifinal. The other matches Ashland against South Laurel.

Newport Central Catholic came in allowing only 42 points per game and looked to lower that mark after holding Boyd County to 13 in the first half.

On the contrary, the Lions’ dormant offense came alive with 49 points the rest of the way. Boyd County (7-6) made five 3-pointers in the second half and continued its steady path to the foul line, making 27 of 39 attempts. NCC piled up 26 fouls overall.

“Give credit to Boyd County,” Brannen said. “They knocked down threes and free throws. We fouled more than we ever have in our lives.”

That isn’t what bothered NewCath’s coach the most.

“I’m disappointed because this was the one time this year we got outhustled,” Brannen said. “If we keep playing like this, there’s no way we’re going to win.”

Meanwhile, Anderson praised his team’s comeback power but keeps waiting for the Lions to put together a consistent effort against top opponents.

“We’ve been doing that all year,” Boyd County’ coach said after another late rally that fell short. “If we put just 20 minutes of intensity and execution together, it could be different.”

Hunt attacked the basket throughout against NewCath’s big frontline. The 6-foot-3 senior scored 16 points in the second half and 21 overall, including 13 free throws in 16 attempts.

“He’s been very good at that all year, using his physical strength and skill,” Anderson said.

Two years ago, Hunt earned All-AIT honors while playing for Russell.

“Austin Hunt is physical guard,” Bueter said. “He’s athletic and pretty good.”

Griffith, a 6-3 junior, hit a 3-pointer from the corner with just under six minutes remaining to slice into the Thoroughbreds’ 16-point lead. Griffith also supplied five points in Boyd County’s run during the final two minutes. He started it with three free throws after being fouled on a shot beyond the arc.

Hunt and Griffith followed with baskets after Thoroughbred turnovers.

Todd Stacy scored 11 points for Boyd County.

NewCath shot 53 percent from the field. Drew McDonald, a 6-6 sophomore, had 14 points and 11 rebounds while going 7-for-11 from the field. Jake Schulte was 4-for-5 and scored 10 points before fouling out.       

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.

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