By Rob Kiser
COVINGTON — The Russia girls basketball team, ranked third in the state in D-IV in the first poll last week, was looking to avoid a second straight loss Monday night.
A Covington team, still without a lot of experience in big games, made the Lady Raiders work hard for it.
But, in the end, Russia was able to score the game’s final 14 points to pull out a 45-33 victory.
“We did the things we needed to do when we needed to do them,” Russia coach Andy Timmerman, who had leading scorer go down for a short time in the first half with injury, said. “That (the injury) was a tough situation, but the girls look at each other and step up.”
Covington coach Jim Meyer had hoped for a big win for his team. While Russia improved to 13-2 and Covington dropped to 11-4, it was the Lady Buccs third loss to a state-ranked team and the second time they had a fourth quarter lead in that situation.
“I am just disappointed for the kids,” Meyer said. “They deserve better. Some other people may not think so, but I think so. These kids were focused and tuned in. As much as they had been since the Tri-Village game. They prepared, we had the game plan — we just have to find a way to get over the hump and finish in these games with state-ranked teams.”
A jumper by Lexie Long had given Covington a 33-31 lead with 3:58 to play, but it was the last points Covington would score as the Buccs struggled to get any kind of looks on offense the rest of the game.
“The ones (good looks) we got we didn’t hit,” Meyer said.
Timmerman was pleased with that part of the Lady Raiders game.
“We did a good job on defense,” Timmerman said. “That is something the girls have always taken a lot of pride in.”
Earlier in the quarter, Russia had started the comeback on back-to-back threes by Cameo Wilson and Tifffany Hatcher.
“We always have different girls stepping up,” Timmerman said. “Those were two big shots.”
Jordan Crowell answered with a three for Covington to tie it at 31 before Long’s jumper.
But, from there, Russia finished on a 14-0 run, including 12 of 14 from the line after Covington was forced to foul at the end.
Wilson had the only field goal down the stretch, while Hatcher was 4-for-4 from the line and Whitney Pleiman and Jenna Cordonnier were 3-for-4.
In the first three quarters, Russia had made just three of 10 from the line.
“The free throws were kind of like the rebounds,” Timmerman said. “We got them when we needed them.”
Russia had opened a 16-9 midway through the second quarter, before Covington got a spark from 6-foot sophomore Lillian Hamilton to close to 16-15 at the break. She had five of Covington’s eight points in the second quarter and blocked several Russia shots.
“She was injured (at the start of the year),” Meyer said. “We had been playing her a quarter or two JV, just to try and get her some playing time. You could see the last three or four practices, she has just been playing great. She had a great game tonight and that just gives us another weapon.”
Covington was in front much of the third quarter — and fourth until the final four minutes, where Russia showed the poise of a team used to playing in big games.
“The game was closer than the score indicated,” Meyer said. “Because we had to foul at the end. We just need to find a way to get over the hump in these games.”
Hatcher led Russia with 12 points, while Cordonnier came off the bench to score 10.
Wilson nearly had a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds and Laurissa Poling grabbed nine rebounds.
Sammi Whiteman had 12 points and five rebounds for Covington.
Tori Lyle grabbed eight rebounds and Hamilton had seven points and six rebounds.
Russia was 13 of 41 from the floor for 32 percent and 15 of 24 from the line for 63 percent.
Covington was 14 of 41 from the floor for 34 percent and three of eight from the line for 38 percent.
Russia won the battle of the boards 29-28 and had 15 turnovers to Covington’s 16.
Russia will continue a tough stretch, going to Jackson Center Thursday, while Covington looks to get back on track against Greenville Thursday.
Laurissa Poling 1-4-6, Tiffany Hatcher 3-4-12, Cameo Wilson 4-0-9, Whitney Pleiman 0-3-3, Maria Herron 2-0-5, Jenna Cordonnier 3-4-10, Shea Borchers 0-0-0. Totals: 13-15-45.
Lexie Long 2-0-4, Sammi Whiteman 5-2-12, Justice Warner 1-0-2, Jordan Crowell 2-0-6, Tori Lyle 1-0-2, Addison Metz 0-0-0, Lauren Christian 0-0-0, Allison Angle 0-0-0, Lillian Hamilton 3-1-7. Totals: 14-3-33.
3-point field goals — Russia: Hatcher (2), Wilson, Herron. Covington: Crowell (2).
Score By Quarters
Russia 8 16 25 45
Covington 9 15 26 33
Records: Russia 13-2, Covington 11-4.