Source: The Corydon Democrat

Freedom Hall awaits Panthers

by Brian Smith

January 07, 2014

Saturday will bring on a big test for the Corydon Central boys’ basketball team on, undoubtedly, the largest stage the Panthers have played on so far this season.

Team-wise, undefeated Corydon Central (7-0) will take on one of three remaining unbeatens from the state of Kentucky, Covington Catholic, at approximately 3 p.m.

Stage-wise, the Panthers, one of 14 remaining unbeatens in Indiana, will take on the Colonels in historic Freedom Hall in Louisville.

The match-up between the teams is part of the inaugural Kentucky vs. Indiana Challenge Cup. The teams are matched based on school enrollments and are part of five games on the slate to be played at the 18,000-seat arena. Historically, Freedom Hall, the previous home of the University of Louisville (1956-2010) and the American Basketball Association’s Kentucky Colonels (1968-1976), has hosted six NCAA Division I championships, 11 NCAA Division I conference tournaments and 20 Kentucky High School Sweet 16 championships.

Corydon Central is off to a fast start to the season. An impressive come-from-behind win against powerhouse New Albany, along with knocking off previously undefeated Crawford County and Heritage Hills, has landed the Panthers a No. 4 ranking in the latest Class 3A AP poll. The Panthers are coming off the program’s first title at the PSC Holiday Classic.

Covington Catholic is no slouch either. Ranked No. 5 in Kentucky, the Colonels are off to a 10-0 start, including winning the Suncoast Holiday Classic in Sarasota, Fla. (Dec. 27-30 tournament).

Statistically, the teams are similar. Corydon Central is averaging 69.6 points per game compared to Covington Catholic averaging 66 per outing. Defensively, both teams are yielding 47 points per game.

“They are very good and may be the best team we play all year,” Corydon Central coach Jamie Kolkmeier said. “They’ve traveled to some good tournaments. They have a good point guard that is quick and knows how to play.”

Entering the Challenge Cup, Corydon Central boasts four players who are averaging in double-figure scoring through seven games.

Leading the way is Division I prospect Bronson Kessinger, a junior forward who is averaging 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest.

Among the upperclassmen, senior guards Brayden Lander and Tommy Wiseman average 13.3 and 11.6 points per game, respectively. Fellow guard Timothy Wiseman, a junior, is averaging 10 points per game.

As a team, the Panthers have shown the ability to play unselfishly. They average nearly 14 assists per contest, led by Tommy Wiseman (4.9) and Lander (3.4).

The Colonels are led by senior guard Nick Ruthsatz, a University of Findlay (NCAA Division II) signee, who averages 19.3 points per game. A pair of other seniors, forward Ben Heppler and center Mark Schult, also lead Covington Catholic in scoring at 10.6 and 9.4 points per game, respectively. Heppler is a deadly 3-point shooter, making 53 percent (27 of 51) of his attempts. Schult is the top rebounder at 6 per game.

Other top players for the Colonels are junior forward Bo Schuh (9.1 ppg), freshman guard Cole Vonhandorf (7.5 ppg) and senior guard Nate Wichmann (5 ppg).

“Ruthsatz is committed to Findlay, a school that won the Division II title in 2009,” Kolkmeier said. “Their freshman point guard is pretty good, and Schuh was a pre-season all-region player.”

Covington Catholic, as a team, shoots 74 percent from the free-throw line and 39 percent from beyond the arc.

As part of the festivities, the state that garners the most wins Saturday earns a traveling Challenge Cup trophy.

The promotion of the Challenge Cup includes the line “Where greatness is validated and champions crowned, Kentucky’s best will challenge Indiana’s best for 2014 high school basketball supremacy.”

The event will begin at 11 a.m. with the lone girls’ basketball game on the slate: Elizabethtown (Ky.) (9-3) taking on Class 4A No. 9 Indianapolis Roncalli (11-3).

Up next will be a run of four consecutive boys’ basketball games, beginning with Elizabethtown (7-4) vs. Class A No. 1 Barr-Reeve (9-0) followed by Covington Catholic (10-0) vs. Corydon Central (7-0), then Hopkinsville (Ky.) (12-1) vs. Class 2A No. 1 Indianapolis Park Tudor (5-1) and Louisville Ballard (11-3) vs. Class 3A No. 6 Guerin Catholic (10-2).

The games will run consecutively beginning at 11 a.m. with 25 minutes between games.

Proceeds from the Cup will go to the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame, Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Wounded Heroes Program.

Admission will be $10 for all day (parking at the Kentucky Exposition Center is $8 per vehicle) with complimentary admission to the event for veterans and immediate families.

Among the other highlights at the event will be autograph sessions between games by Kentucky and Indiana high school basketball legends, a veteran’s job fair from noon to 6 p.m. and veteran’s health and wellness mobile unit.