PLEASANT HILL — Going into Tuesday’s rivalry contest against Newton the Covington Lady Buccs knew they had to find a way to contain Tatum McBride.
And for two quarters Covington did just that by holding the Lady Indians’ leading scorer to three points at the break – all on free throws, one in the first quarter and two in the second.
It led to a 13-3 Lady Bucc lead after one and a 23-14 lead at the break.
“I thought Kenzie (Makenzie Long) and the two Morgans (Morgan Kimmel and Morgan Lowe) did a good job defending McBride,” said Covington coach Jim Meyer. “The plan was to deny her the ball and for the most part the girls were able to do that. We held her to three points at the half. All three of those girls defended her very well.”
Unfortunately for Covington, defending McBride for an entire four quarters is a daunting task – especially when your primary shut-down defender finds herself in foul trouble.
“Kenzie got into some foul trouble in the second half and that hurt,” Meyer explained. “That forced us to be a little more cautious on defense and they were able to get the ball into her (McBride) hands. She (McBride) was able to penetrate and get to the line in the second half.”
Which led to 20 second half points for McBride as Newton was able to scratch and claw its way back into the game.
McBride scored nine of Newton’s 11 points in the third to cut the Covington advantage to 31-25 and then scored 11 of the Indians’ 17 fourth quarter points.
Meanwhile, Covington found a hard time connecting on shots from point blank range inside the paint as all but two of its third quarter points came on three-pointers by Sammi Whiteman and Jordan Crowell.
“That’s just something we’ve got to continue to work on (scoring in the paint),” Meyer said. “It’s a confidence thing and I believe it will come. Once those shots start to fall it will make thing easier for us.”
Much of Covington struggles at times came from its difficulty against the half court trap implemented by Newton.
“That’s what we expect with Newton,” said Meyer. “They are very well coached and made it tough on us with their half court trap. We were able to make some adjustments and weather the storm.”
Crowell came up big with her fourth trey of the contest early in the fourth quarter and Whiteman was able to score on three drives to the basket in between a stick-back by Makenzie Long.
But McBride was able to knock down a trey, two runners and converted on four of five free throw attempts to keep Newton close.
Brooke Deeter and Mallory Dunlevy also helped Newton’s cause as Deeter hit on a jumper and a pair of free throws and Dunlevy scored a bucket in the final frame.
After a short jumper by Tori Lyle gave Covington a 44-42 lead, the Lady Buccs got a big defensive stop at the other end with a huge rebound off a missed Indian shot went into the hands of Lauren Christian.
Christian was fouled with 4.3 on the clock and calmly connected on the only two free throws attempted by Covington in the fourth quarter. The free throws were the only two points scored on the night by Christian, but they were the biggest two points of the game because it pushed the Lady Bucc lead to 46-42, leaving Newton no chance of a comeback win.
“Those two free throws by Lauren at the end were big,” Meyer said. “We didn’t shoot ‘em (free throws) very well tonight, but those the two by Lauren couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Covington struggled mightily at the free throw line throughout the entire contest – making just four of 10 on the evening.
Meanwhile, Newton made 13 of 23 at the stripe with McBride converting on 10 of 12.
Still, it was a win where Covington felt it left points off the board.
“We missed some shots, that’s for sure,” agreed Meyer. “But we played good defense and rebounded well. This was another character win for us because when Newton got it close our girls continued to compete and believe in themselves.”
Tatum McBride led all scorers with 23 points, while Sammi Whiteman led Covington with 18 points and Jordan Crowell came up big with 12 points on four treys.
The win boosts Covington’s record to 6-1 on the season and 4-0 in the CCC.
Next up for Covington is a trip to Pitsburg next Monday for a critical league matchup against Franklin Monroe.
Newton, 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the CCC, hosts Tri-Village Thursday.