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CovCath celebrates another Sweet 16® title

March 18, 2018 FieldsColumn

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Sweet 16® MVP C.J. Fredrick cuts down the net after leading Covington Catholic past Scott County 73-55 in Sunday’s title game. (Photo by Mike Fields)

BY MIKE FIELDS

A few years ago C.J. Fredrick couldn’t even start for Covington Catholic’s freshman basketball team because, in his own words, he was “a skinny little stand-still shooter.”

Sunday afternoon under the bright lights in Rupp Arena, Fredrick was the star of the show as CovCath claimed its second state championship in five years.

The 6-foot-4 senior poured in 32 points as the Colonels swamped Scott County 73-55 to win the 101st Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16® in front of 12,637 fans.

CovCath, which also beat Scott County in the 2014 finals, is only the second private school to win more than one boys’ championship. St. Xavier is the other, having taken the title in 1926, ’35, ’58 and ’62.

“C.J.’s special; he’s got special talent,” Coach Scott Ruthsatz said. “If you want to write a book, C.J.’s the one to write about. He was the sixth or seventh man on our freshman team. He grew a little bit, but his dedication in the gym is unsurpassed. That’s a kid who just went with his roles as a sophomore and junior, and now he’s the best player on the floor.”

Fredrick, a 6-foot-4 senior who has signed with Iowa, earned MVP honors for the week. He totaled 114 points in four games, hitting 10 of 18 three-pointers and 31 of 33 free throws.

How did he come so far in just a few years?

“I told myself I wanted to be a basketball player because this is what I love to do,” he said.

Scott County Coach Billy Hicks said Fredrick was all but impossible to stop.

“We had a hand in his face. We guarded the heck out of him, and he just made shots.

“Before the game we said we couldn’t let Fredrick go crazy. And he did. He’s a great basketball player. I can’t remember playing anybody in the state tournament better than that.”

Aiden Ruthsatz, the coach’s son, got to hold a state title trophy just like brother Nick did in 2014. (Photo by Mike Fields)

Scott County had more than Fredrick to worry about. This was a CovCath team loaded with talent, size, athleticism and smarts.

The Mayer brothers brought the same toughness to the court that they took to the football field in helping the Colonels to an undefeated Class 5A state title last fall.

AJ Mayer, a 6-3, 205-pound senior, was an all-state quarterback who signed with Miami of Ohio. “Little” brother Michael, a 6-5, 210-pound sophomore, was a standout tight end/defensive end. He already has football offers from Penn State, Notre Dame, Michigan, LSU, Purdue, Kentucky and Louisville, among others.

“They brought that physicality to basketball,” Fredrick said. “They always hit the boards, and even if they don’t get the rebound, they’re going to hit you and you’re going to feel it.”

Ruthsatz, who earned his 200th career win at CovCath with Sunday’s victory, noted that the only four games CovCath lost this season were when AJ was sidelined with an injury. “That’s a testament to what he brought to the team.”

The Colonels also boasted a guy inside — Jake Walter — who made the Mayers look small. Walter, a 7-foot-1, 260-pound senior who has signed with Xavier, was a space-eater in the paint with a nifty baby hook.

Running the show was senior guard Aiden Ruthsatz, the coach’s son. He had 18 points and 5 assists in the first-round win over Apollo, and he contributed 16 points and 5 assists in the finals.

He was just following in his brother’s footsteps. When CovCath won the state title in 2014, Nick Ruthsatz was the tournament MVP.

“This feels amazing,” Aiden said. “All these expectations you have growing up, knowing your big brother led the way and won state his senior year. For me to be able to do that means everything to me.”

It means a lot to his dad, too.

“It’s special . . . a lot of emotions,” Scott Ruthsatz said. “These are opportunities most fathers and sons don’t get to enjoy.”

Before the finals, Billy Hicks lamented that CovCath “still had a dad-burned Ruthsatz” on the roster, remembering how Nick carved up his Cardinals in the 2014 title game. “I hope (Aiden) is the last of them.”

Sorry, coach, but he’s not.

Nolan Ruthsatz is a 5th-grader and Aaron Ruthsatz is a 1st-grader. According to Nick, both are going to be players. 

“There’ll be 8 more years of solid Ruthsatz basketball,” their dad/coach said, perhaps sounding a warning to future Sweet 16 opponents. 

CovCath celebrates its second state title. That’s AJ Mayer, center, hoisting the championship trophy. (Mike Fields photo)

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