LEXINGTON – C.J. Fredrick wasn’t a star player in Covington Catholic’s basketball program when he was a freshman.
He wasn’t even in the starting rotation.
But in four games at the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen over a four day stretch, the senior tallied 111 points, including 32 in Sunday’s state final, on the way to tournament MVP honors as the Colonels topped Scott County, 73-55, for their second title.
“C.J. is special. He’s got special talent and this is a kid – if you want to write a book – C.J.’s the one to write about,” said Covington Catholic coach Scott Ruthsatz. “He didn’t start on our freshman team. He was the sixth or seventh man on our freshman team as a freshman. He grew a little bit, but his dedication in the gym is unsurpassed. That’s a kid that just went with his roles, followed his roles from sophomore year to junior year and now here we are – the best player on the floor.”
The 111 points scored are the 12th most in a single tournament, finishing one point shy of Chris Lofton, who finished with 112 points during Mason County’s run to their first state title in 2003.
“After my freshman year, I just told myself I want to be a basketball player. This is what I love to do,” said Fredrick. “I put the work in all summer with Coach Fredrick and Coach Ruthsatz – the skill development they do in the summer is unbelievable. I’m so proud of this team right now.”
Fredrick, who went from a self-proclaimed “skinny little standstill shooter” to now being signed with the University of Iowa, fell in the state’s Mr. Basketball voting to Mercer County’s Trevon Faulkner shortly before the start of the state tournament. He shot 63.6 percent during the tournament, leading an efficient team whose worst field goal percentage in a single game of the tournament came when the Colonels fired 59.1 percent from the field in a 71-47 victory over Apollo in the opening round on Thursday.
“He was efficient in this tournament. He’s been efficient for – what did we play? Thirty nine games? Efficient for 39 games,” said Ruthsatz. “That’s just a testament to our offense, but it’s also a testament to his game, his basketball IQ,” said Ruthsatz.
“Our guys off the ball get him open. Aiden [Ruthsatz] and him work in great tandem with each other. If one’s not open they’re going to try to find the other,” added Ruthsatz. “It’s just a testament to our whole program knowing this isn’t an equal opportunity sport. Nobody gets the equal amount of shots. They’ve got to understand that if they play their role, they’ll play. If they don’t want to play their role, they won’t play. Our guys you just saw bought into their role.”
Fredrick fired in 10 of Covington Catholic’s 18 points in the opening frame as the Colonels held a six-point advantage heading into the second.
“Before the game we said we couldn’t let Fredrick go crazy. And he did,” said Scott County coach Billy Hicks. “He’s a great basketball player. I can’t remember playing anybody in the state tournament better than that.”
Scott County would get within three twice during the second period – at 22-19 on a tip-in from Michael Moreno and at 24-21 on a layup from Cooper Robb – but wouldn’t come any closer from there as Covington Catholic scored six of the final eight points in the half to hold a 32-25 lead.
The Colonels started the third quarter of a 9-2 run, capped off by a 3-pointer from Fredrick with 5:02 to play in the frame, before eventually heading to the fourth with a 54-43 advantage.
By the 1:08 mark in the fourth, Covington Catholic’s lead had grown to 21 at 70-49 on two free throws from Fredrick – his 31st and 32nd points of the game.
“It’s incredible. I didn’t want to look up at the score because I’m thinking something bad is going to happen. The lead kept extending and I know once we get into free throw situations we’re good, but again, I didn’t want to look up at the score. I couldn’t believe it. Like, you’ve got to pinch me,” said Ruthsatz. “As a coach, you’re always looking for the bad angle. There’s a lot of positive here tonight.”
Shortly after that the reserves came in and Tyler Fleek capped off the season with a dunk before the final horn, sending the Covington Catholic bench into a frenzy.
Aiden Ruthsatz – the coach’s son – finished with 16 points for the Colonels. A.J. Mayer, who quarterbacked Covington Catholic to a perfect 15-0 record and the Class 5A state title on the gridiron this fall, finished with 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Covington Catholic finishes the season with a 35-4 record.
Robb finished with 22 points to lead Scott County, while Moreno had 21 points and eight rebounds. The only other two scorers on the team were Diablo Stewart with 10 points and Glenn Covington with two. The Cardinals end the season with their first loss to an in-state opponent all season, finishing with a 37-2 overall record.