Saturday, March 11, 2000

Final shot answers NCC prayer

Enquirer contributor

        UNION, Ky. — Point guard Vince Bonhaus took Newport Central Catholic's basketball season into his hands Friday night and wobbled down a winding path to victory.

        NCC, No.1 in The Enquirer's Northern Kentucky high school rankings, was struggling with one of its worst shooting nights of the season in the Ninth Region semifinals at the Ryle High School gymnasium. Conner led 38-37 with 18.5 seconds to play.

        But Bonhaus came down the court, weaving here, cross-over dribbling there, until he was at the free-throw lane.

        There was no open shot, and the clock was winding down. Bonhaus hurled himself toward the baseline and lofted a part-hook, part-heave shot into the air over a taller defender.

        It went in and the Thoroughbreds led 39-38.

        Conner had a chance to retake the lead with 1.2 second left when junior Marcus Johnson drew a charging call against Seth Lynn on the inbounds play. But Johnson missed the front end of a one-and-one.

        It was a fitting finish for a game in which Conner hit just 38.5 percent of its field goal attempts and NCC hit, according to coach Ron Dawn's figures, just 28 percent.

        Was it good defense or horrible shooting? Both Dawn and Conner coach Scott Thomas said it was a little of both.

        “It seemed like we had several shots that went in and out,” Thomas said. “On defense, I told our guys we needed to keep the score low, the high 40s or low 50s. We played good half-court defense and did everything we had to do to win.”

        NCC's Ronny Dawn, the area scoring leader, was held to 11 points. Thomas said Dawn was the target of the Conner defense.

        “We put our two best guys on him and rotated them the entire game,” Thomas said. “We made him work for every shot.”

        Coach Dawn said, “We haven't had many shooting games like this one. They played pretty good defense on us and some of our shots didn't go down.”

        Conner (15-12) took the lead with 7:04 left in the second quarter and didn't give it up until Bonhaus put the Thoroughbreds on top 35-33 with five minutes to go. NCC had trailed 29-20 with 3:03 remaining in the first half.

        NCC (29-5) will shoot for its first Ninth Region title and Sweet Sixteen trip since 1984 when it faces Holmes in the final. The Thoroughbreds have won seven regional titles.

        “Holmes is tough,” Dawn said. “They've got a lot of ability and they're playing well. We will have our hands full.”

        It's a showdown between the region's hottest teams. NCC has won 20 straight games and Holmes has won 11 in a row.

        CONNER (38) — Stephenson 5 2-2 15, M.Johnson 2 0-1 5, Hudgens 0 0-1 0, Edwards 3 0-1 6, T.Johnson 3 2-3 8, Michels 2 0-0 4, Deck 0 0-0 0, Brown 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 4-7 38.

        NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC (39) — Bonhaus 3 1-3 8, Bacigalupo 1 3-4 5, R.Dawn 3 3-4 11, Myers 1 0-0 2, Lynn 4 1-2 13. Totals: 12 8-13 39.

        3-point goals: C-Stephenson 3, M.Johnson 1. NCC-Lynn 4, Dawn 2, Bonhaus 1.


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