By Rob Kiser
Covington boys basketball coach Matt Pond has coached a lot of basketball teams that have won a lot of games.
And Pond will put this year’s Buccs team that finished 12-12 with a 49-41 loss to Jackson Center in the Piqua Division sectional semifinals Tuesday at Garbery Gymnasium right up there with any of them.
Jackson Center, the fourth seed and 17-6, will play Fairlawn for the sectional title Friday night.
“One of the things I told the kids after the game is the only place we lost was on the scoreboard,” Pond said. “I know its sounds kind of hokey. These seniors — Jayce (Pond), Trevor (Miller), Nathan (Blei), Kenny (Atkinson), Adam (Lefeld), Tristin (Sowers) — they were here when I came here five years ago. This has been such an enjoyable group to coach. It is just a shame it had to end here.”
And two key runs were the difference in the game.
Covington was trailing just 10-8 late in the first quarter when Brady Wildermuth hit a three at the buzzer for Jackson Center to make it 13-8.
Fred Bunke hit two free throws to start the second quarter, then Christopher Elchert drilled a three to give the Tigers and 18-8 advantage.
“There were just a couple runs in the game, where we struggled to score,” Pond said. “Andy you can’t do that against a good team like Jackson Center.”
Kenny Atkinson hit a three and Jayce Pond scored off a steal late in the second quarter to get Covington within 22-16 — but Jackson Center would answer with a 10-0 run into the second half to make it 32-16.
“I don’t know what the run was, but you could just feel it going on,” Pond said.
Again, Covington would battle back.
A Zach Parrett three got the Buccs within 36-26 to close the third quarter and Pond started the fourth quarter scoring to make it 36-28.
Pond hit a three with 3:20 to go to get Covington within 40-33 and the Buccs would get within seven twice more — on a Nathan Blei spin move with 2:20 to go and a NBA three from Trevor Miller in the final 30 seconds that made it 48-41 before Jackson Center added a free throw late.
“Those kids have done that all year,” Pond said. “They have showed the ability to battle back. I looked up there with 30 seconds to go and we are seven down with one timeout.”
Wildermuth, a 6-6 post, was a problem all night, finishing with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
“Our focus was on stopping him,” Pond said about Wildermuth. “But Scott’s (Elchert) kids do a great job in their sets and they are patient. He (Brady Wildermuth) did a great job getting to the line and made his free throws (nine of 14). He is a big time player. That is why he is going to Findlay.”
Bryce Sosby added seven points, seven rebounds and four assists for Jackson Center.
Pond led a balanced Covington attack with 10 points, while Blei had nine points, five rebounds and four assists.
Miller added eight and Atkinson scored seven.
Covington was 16 of 47 from the floor for 34 percent, including seven of 17 from behind the arc for 41 percent. The Buccs made two of five free throws for 40 percent.
Jackson Center was 15 of 31 from the floor for 48 percent, including three of 11 from 3-point range for 27 percent. The Tigers made 16 of 24 free throws for 67 percent.
After being outrebounded 18-6 in the first half, Covington was outrebounded just 16-14 in the second half for a 34-20 total.
“I wasn’t happy with the rebounding in the first half,” Pond said. “I thought we did a much better job in the second half.”
Covington had just nine turnovers to Jackson Center’s 16.
“This team has been nothing but class all year,” Pond said. “And we had some bad losses. But, never once did any of them do anything to embarrass an official, our coaching staff, the school or the community. It is nice to be able to say that about a team.”
Which is why it was so tough for Pond to see his time coaching this group end.
Jett Murphy 1-0-3, Jayce Pond 4-1-10, Trevor Miller 3-0-8, Nathan Blei 4-0-9, Kenny Atkinson 3-0-7, Zach Parrett 1-1-4, Adam Lefeld 0-0-0, Tristin Sowers 0-0-0. Totals: 16-2-41.
Jackson Center (49)
Trent Platfoot 2-0-5, Gavin Booser 0-0-0, Bryce Sosby 2-3-7, Brady Wildermuth 8-9-26, Calvin Winner 1-2-4 Christipher Elchert 1-0-3, James Gambrel 0-0-0, Braden Heitkamp 0-0-0, Jeremy Burch 0-0-0, Jarron Reese 0-0-0, Fred Bunke 1-2-4, Corbin Murphy 0-0-0. Totals: 15-16-49.
3-point field goals — Covington: Murphy, Pond, Miller (2), Blei, Atkinson, Parrett. Jackson Center: Platfoot, Wildermuth, Elchert.
Score By Quarters
Covington 8 16 26 41
Jackson Center 13 25 36 49
Records: Covington 12-12, Jackson Center 17-6.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.