COVINGTON —Miami East coach Allen Mack said it perfectly in his post-game interview after his Vikings escaped Covington High School with a hard-fought 50-46 win.
“This was a hard-fought game that could have went either way,” said Mack. “Certainly, both teams were scrapping hard for a win. Both have fairly young teams.”
Covington coach Matt Pond agreed.
“Two teams that are probably struggling a lot confidence wise came in here and got after it,” said Pond. “To come in and have it come down to one possession , all we ask was for a chance at the end. I’m proud of these kids.”
Trailing Trailing 48-43 with under 30 seconds left in the game, Covington’s Tyler Henry gave the Buccaneers new life by canning a huge trey and then stealing the ball on the inbounds pass.
“Our kids don’t quit, they fight for four quarters,” Pond explained. “Henry, for a where this is his first varsity season to not fall asleep down there in our press game and give us a chance as a senior leader - that’s going to pay dividends for our kids.”
Henry’s heroics made for some uneasy moments for Allen Mack and Miami East.
“It got pretty scary there when Henry hit that big three for them,” Mack said. “Then we turned it over on the inbounds play. Fortunately they missed two threes after that point, one down two and one down three. Then we made one out of two from the line and when we made the one to put us up by four we felt pretty comfortable after that.”
Because after the final free throw made by Conner Hellyer with four seconds left, all Miami East had to do was stand back and watch the clock run down.
“I’m proud of our guys and how they stepped up in big game situations and made the plays we had to in order to hold onto the win,” said Mack. “But you have to give Covington credit. If any one of those shots late go in that game could very well had ended up differently.”
Early on it looked like Covington was going to shoot Miami East out of the gym as it built a 17-6 lead midway through the first quarter.
But Miami East battled its way back in a hurry as Franco Villella, Brandon Mack and Conner Hellyer canned three huge treys to cut the deficit to 19-17 after one.
Neither team could shake the other over the remainder of the contest as Covington led 27-25 at the half and the game was tied at 36-36 after three quarters of action.
The game remained a one possession game until just under 2:00 left in the contest when Braxton Donaldson made a circus shot while being fouled under the basket for the three-point play to give the Vikings a five-point lead 46-41.
After a drive to the basket by Andre Benedict, who scored a game-high 20 points, Miami East followed by converting on two free throws to make the score 48-43 - a score that stood until Henry’s trey with 30 seconds left.
Henry then stole the inbounds pass and Covington immediately took its final timeout to set up a potential game-winner with the score 48-46 with 24 seconds left.
After the timeout the Buccs had an open look at a three-pointer with 14 seconds left, but the shot bounced off the back of the rim and into the arms of Damien Mackesy, who was immediately fouled. Mackesy made one of two free throws to push the lead to 49-46, but Covington pulled down the rebound and pushed the ball up the floor for one final game-tying attempt.
Once again, the shot bounced off the back of the rim and Miami East’s Conner Hellyer pulled down the rebound and was fouled with four ticks left on the clock.
Hellyer made the first of two free throws, but it was all the Vikings needed to preserve the 50-46 win.
“To come into Covington and get a win like this is gratifying,” said Mack. “Both teams, really, both team played hard and for us to get a win like this was big.”
For Matt Pond and Covington, the game may be a loss on the record, but not by the way his team played.
“The only negative out of this is the score on the scoreboard,” Pond said. “I’m proud of our kids because they came out and competed very hard. There’s not one negative we can take from this except for the fact that we came up just short on the scoreboard.”
In the end, there were no losers.