Up with the roosters on Thursday morning, the Owensboro Catholic High School Aces were at their rise-and-shine best.
Drawing the 7:30 a.m. (CT) tipoff to open the All ‘A’ Classic small-school state basketball tournament, the Aces roared from the starting gate and dominated West Carter 62-33 at McBrayer Arena on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond.
At 5 p.m. (CT) on Friday, Catholic (13-6) will be challenged in a quarterfinal matchup by Frankfort (9-12), which pulled off a 57-52 upset of Bishop Brossart in its opening-round game.
Aces coach Tim Riley conceded that he had no idea how his team would respond to the early start, but he was exceedingly pleased afterward with the result.
“I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest,” Riley said, “but we hit back-to-back 3s to start the game, got out to an 8-0 lead, and we played with a lot of confidence the whole way.
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“We played a really good basketball game, and defensively we were very good — this is more of what we’ve been looking for at the defensive end of the court.”
The Comets, representing the 16th Region, were able to settle into the contest and draw within 12-8 by the end of the first quarter, but Catholic got 3-pointers from Drew Hartz, Brian Griffith and Gray Weaver during a 20-8 second-period run that pushed the Aces in front 32-16 by intermission.
“Gray Weaver is finally getting in the groove, and he was really key for us in this one,” Riley said of the Aces’ 6-foot-1 junior guard. “He’s shot the ball much better recently, and he gives us another scorer, which is huge — this game is still about being able to put the ball in the basket.”
Catholic continued to pour it on in the third quarter, with Griffith scoring 10 points and Hartz adding six in a 24-9 run that increased the Aces’ advantage to 56-25.
“We came out ready to play, and we played well,” Riley said. “We made the most of our opportunity — it was a very solid team effort.”
Griffith, a sophomore point guard, led all scorers with 19 points, adding three assists. Senior forward Hartz produced 14 points and six rebounds, Weaver had 11 points, four rebounds, four blocks and three assists, sophomore center Ji Webb collected seven rebounds, and senior guard Andrew Riney had five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Both Weaver and Hartz were 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
Catholic finished 21-of-43 from the floor for 49%, including 70% from distance (7-of-10), but went only 13-of-27 from the foul line (48%). The Aces outrebounded West Carter (39-31) and turned the ball over 10 times.
The cold-shooting Comets were paced by Braden Leadingham’s eight points and seven rebounds.
West Carter (9-8) went 15-of-53 from the field (28%), made 2-of-11 shots from 3-point range (18%), and was only 1-of-4 at the foul stripe (25%). The Comets committed 12 floor errors.
WEST CARTER 8-8-9-8 — 33
OWENSBORO CATHOLIC 12-20-24-6 — 62
West Carter (33) — Leadingham 8, Callahan 6, Tackett 6, Bond 4, Webb 3, Jordan 2, Wilburn 2, Rayburn 2.
Owensboro Catholic (62) — Griffith 19, Hartz 14, Weaver 11, Webb 7, McFarland 5, Riney 4, Scales 2.