By Rob Kiser
BROOKVILLE — Covington girls basketball coach Jim Meyer knew there was no middle of the road Saturday.
After the second seeded Lady Buccs elected to play third seeded Miami Valley in the opening round of the Brookville D-I sectional tournament, he was going to be the smartest coach in the gym — or the alternative.
And despite Covington losing two key players (Jordan Crowell, Lillian Hamilton) since the draw Meyer was holding an ace — the desire and determination of his team — which proved to be the difference in Covington’s 66-52 win over the Rams Saturday.
Covington, 18-5, will now play Twin Valley South at 6 p.m. Wednesday in second round action, while Miami Valley closes the season at 17-5.
“If I had known I wasn’t going to have Jordan (Crowell) and Lillian (Hamilton) who was really coming on, I wouldn’t have done what I did,” Meyer said. “But, these girls have never failed to surprise me. They just looked at it as next girl up.”
And senior Lexie Long stepped into that spotlight with nine for 12 shooting performance from the floor, 4-for-4 from the line and 21 points and eight rebounds.
“Making shots is not the problem for Lexie (Long),” Meyer said. “Getting her to shoot is the problem. The other day I stopped practice. I said, ‘Lexie, you were wide open and didn’t even look at the basket’ and she just smiled.”
When Covington opened the game with an 8-1 deficit, Long knew she was going to have to change her mindset.
She hit all five shots from the floor to keep Covington in the game — then scored nine points in the fourth quarter when Covington turned in a one-point deficit into a 14-point win.
“I really don’t (like to shoot),” Long said with a smile. “But, when we were seven down, I figured I better do something. Jordan (Crowell) is one of our best players, so it is tough not having her out there.”
And Sammi Whiteman had her hands on the majority of Covington points in some way.
Whether it was creating points for others by dishing out 10 assists or scoring 15 points, the sophomore point guard was a driving force.
“There was never a point where we doubted (they were going to win),” Whiteman said. “My teammates did a great job and we knew what we could do.”
Until the fourth quarter, the Lady Buccs found themselves playing from behind.
Covington trailed by as many as seven in the first quarter and 10 in the second.
But, Covington answered with the final nine points of the half — including a 3-point play on a Whiteman assist to Makenzie Long, who had played JV all season. That left Covington down just 26-25 at the break.
“These kids are just not going to quit,” Meyer said. “Sammi (Whiteman) creates things. That is what she does. Tori Lyle, Lauren Christian and Makenzie Long were able to finish. They started the game with triangle and two, which surprised us. But, we were able to get Sammi loose just enough.”
It was close throughout the third quarter and Long made a shot at the buzzer to bring Covington within 40-39.
Then Addison Metz stepped up with her best quarter of the season at the most important time.
The senior guard hit a three to give Covington a 44-42 lead.
After the Rams tied it on a basket by Tia Karras, the Buccs took control.
Whiteman hit a three, Metz hit a jumper and Long had a 3-point play off a Whiteman assist to make it 52-44 with 4:21 remaining and the Rams could never recover.
Metz would finish the fourth quarter with nine of Covington’s 27 points.
She was a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the line.
“She stayed at the school last night and took 100 shots,” Meyer said. “When she missed those shots in the third quarter, I was thinking just keep shooting and she did. She came up big for us.”
Whiteman also grabbed eight rebounds for the Buccs, while Justice Warner, Lyle and Christian finished with six points each.
While Covington held the high-scoring Karras to 11 points, Liz Bush stepped up for the Rams.
She scored all 13 Miami Valley points in the second quarter, had 19 in the first half and finished with 29.
Covington finished the game 26 of 55 from the floor for 47 percent and 12 of 14 from the line for 86 percent, including a perfect 7-for-7 in the fourth quarter.
Miami Valley was 19 of 49 from the floor for 39 percent and eight of 16 from the line for 50 percent.
Covington won the battle of the boards 28-23 and had 12 turnovers to the Rams’ five.
“I am just so proud of these girls,” Meyer said. “It is amazing what they have been able to do.”
Including making him the smartest coach in the gym.
Lexie Long 9-3-21, Sammi Whiteman 5-4-15, Justis Warner 2-2-6, Addison Metz 3-2-9, Tori Lyle 3-0-6, Lauren Christian 3-0-6, Allison Angle 0-0-0, Makenzie Long 1-1-3. Totals: 26-12-66.
Miami Valley (52)
Liz Bush 11-6-29, Eva Lyon 0-0-0, Tia Karras 4-2-11, Alyssa Clements 4-0-9, Mollie Lyon 0-0-0, Grace Zerba 1-0-3, Kristi Campbell 0-0-0, Kalyn Hopkins 0-0-0. Totals: 20-8-52.
3-point field goals — Covington: Whiteman, Metz. Miami Valley: Bush, Karrs, Clementz, Zerba.
Score By Quarters
Covington 14 25 39 66
Miami Valley 13 26 40 52
Records: Covington 18-5, Miami Valley 17-5.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.