By Rob Kiser
It was the meeting of good friends on the Garbry Gymnasium hardwood Wednesday when Covington and Troy Christian played in the Green Bracket consolation game of the Buckeye Insurance Group Holiday Classic.
Covington coach Matt Pond and Troy Christian coach Ray Zawadzki were part of the coaching staff at Tippecanoe when the Red Devils had one of the most successful runs in school history.
“He was my assistant for a number of years,” Pond said after Covington’s 48-41 victory. “It is always good to see him. They are always a well coached team and they play hard.”
Zawadzki admitted once the game starts — it is like any other game for 32 minutes.
“Honestly, I don’t like coaching against friends,” Zawadzki said. “Basketball is basketball once the game starts. But, we are not going to get upset. We are always going to be good friends.”
After a closely contested first half that ended in a 19-19 tie, Covington opened the second half with the first 11 points to go up 30-19.
Nathan Blei and Jordan Machino had four points each in the run and Trevor Miller added three.
‘That was big for us,” Pond said. “Especially, after the way we struggled in the third quarter last night (against Russia).”
And while it was the second straight night, the Eagles had started slowly in the second half, this time Troy Christian battled to the end.
“I do need to figure out what is going there at the start of the second half,” Zawadzki said. “But, I liked the way we responded to the challenge tonight. We handled it much better than we did last night.”
Luke Dillahunt and Hayden Hartman finished the quarter with consecutive threes to get the Eagles back within 33-30 at the quarter’s end.
Both teams had runs in the quarter, but the pivotal moment came with just under two minutes remaining.
With Covington leading 42-39, Hartman fired a three from the corner that would have tied the game — and it went halfway down before spinning back out.
“That is a set play we run,” Zawadzki said. “It looked like it was in and spun back out.”
Covington’s Jayce Pond then hit three of four free throws down the stretch to help seal the win.
“It was great to see Jayce (Pond) step up in that situation,” Pond said. “And it was nice to see Nathan Blei get going on offense.”
Just as important was the defense on 6-foot-5 sophomore James Anderson, who finished with 14 points to lead Troy Christian. That including going 8-for-8 from the line. He also had seven rebounds.
“He was a matchup nightmare for us,” Pond said. “We put Kenny Atkinson in there in the second half and he did a great job. At some point all our posts had to guard him and to hold him to three field goals, I thought we did a great job.”
Maschino had 16 points and eight rebounds for Covington, while Blei added 11 points.
Covington was 14 of 32 from the floor and 18 of 34 from the line, while Troy Christian was 13 of 43 from the floor and perfect on eight free throw attempts.
Covington won the battle of the boards 28-25 and had 12 turnovers to Troy Christian’s 15.
The Buccs and Eagles are both 4-4.
“It was great to be able to get on the floor where we are going to play two tournament games and get a feel for it,” Pond said. “I think we proved something in this tournament, playing against some really good teams.”
Getting to see an old friend was just an added bonus.
Jayce Pond 0-5-5, Jordan Maschino 4-8-16, Trevor Miller 2-3-7, Nathan Blei 4-2-11, Tristin Sowers 2-0-4, Jett Murphy 1-0-3, Kenny Atkinson 1-0-2. Totals: 14-18-48.
Troy Christian (41)
Chase Hayden 0-0-0, Seth Wynne 3-0-8, Jacob Brown 2-0-5, James Anderson 3-8-14, Luke Dillahunt 2-0-6, Colt Tanner 0-0-0, Hayden Hartman 3-0-8, Sam Kirkpatrick 0-0-0, Peyton Spurlock 0-0-0, Ben Schenk 0-0-0. Totals: 13-8-41.
3-point field goals — Covington: Blei, Murphy. Troy Christian: Wynne (2), Brown, Dillahunt (2), Hartman (2).
Score By Quarters
Covington 9 19 33 48
Troy Christian 8 19 30 41
Records: Covington 4-4, Troy Chrstian 4-4.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.