COVINGTON — It was apparent when Marion Local walked onto the floor that the Covington Buccaneers had their work cut out for them as the Flyers fielded a significant size advantage with Luke Knapke at 6’10”, Ryan Bruns 6’7” and Adam Bertke listed at 6’6”. Meanwhile, the Buccs’ tallest players were Robert Gengler at 6’5” and Andre Benedict at 6’3”.
“They are big,” said Covington coach Matt Pond. “I intentionally went and stood beside some of their kids and they are legit.”
Whether it was intimidation or the natural process of trying to adjust to playing a team with Marion Local’s heighth and range, the Buccaneers had a difficult time hitting shots early in the game.
And the result was a 13-4 deficit that put the Buccaneers in a hole.
“We dug ourselves a hole early and had to fight to try and get out of it,” said Pond. “That’s tough to do against a team of that caliber. You have to hit shots, especially early, against a team like that and we couldn’t knock them down.”
And that wasn’t Covington’s only issue early on as Marion Local dominated the boards, especially in the first quarter.
“That’s why we called a timeout early,” Pond explained. “We weren’t putting a body on a body and boxing out. We talked to the kids about it and they did a much better job after that.”
After a frustrating first quarter, Covington started to adjust to Marion Local’s size advantage and put together a solid second quarter by playing aggressive basketball.
Still, Marion Local was able to push its lead to 27-14 at the break.
“We missed some shots, but our kids played hard,” said Pond. “I think our intensity and effort level picked up as the game went on.”
But it was an uphill climb for Covington as Marion Local gradually increased its lead to 20 points after three quarters and closed out the game with a 54-31 win.
“We didn’t go away,” Pond stated. “Our kids played with some pride after getting down early. That’s character and the neatest thing about these kids is they don’t quit.”
Which Pond is confident will pay dividends down the line.
“You know, we’ve went through a tough stretch here, but the kids continue to compete very hard,” he said. “That’s what we have to hang our hat on as we continue to improve. It’ll come.”
Covington was led by Andre Benedict with 12 points and Austin Lefeld with eight points.
The Buccs shot 39% from the floor, while Marion Local converted on 50% of its shots.
The Flyers’ size was evident on the boards as they pulled down 35 rebounds to 20 for Covington and held a 14 to 5 advantage at the offensive end.
Which was the difference in the game, despite a gritty effort by the Buccaneer