By Ben Robinson
HOUSTON — For the second straight year the Covington Lady Buccs had all they could handle and them some with a gritty Houston team in the season opener.
But the Lady Buccs were able to overcome early foul trouble and an uncharacteristic seven three pointers by Houston to escape with a 45-41 win.
“I don’t know what it is, but it seems like Houston gives us trouble,” said Covington coach Jim Meyer. “In everything we’ve seen of them in our preparation we didn’t see them shoot many three-pointers, but they sure shot them tonight – and a lot of them came from players we didn’t expect to take those shots.”
Covington opened up the contest with a 6-1 run by holding Houston without a field goal for the first five minutes of the game.
But a trey by Rebekah New sparked the Lady Wildcats and by quarter’s end Houston held a 10-9 lead.
To make matters worse for Covington, senior Tori Lyle picked up an early foul and two quick fouls in the opening minutes of the second frame.
“Our intention was to get her out of the game when she picked up her second foul, but she got another one before we could get her out,” Meyer explained. “That hurt because she’s such a fundamentally sound player who does a lot of little things for us.”
With Lyle on the bench for the remainder of the half and Houston focusing on shutting down Sammi Whiteman, sophomore Mackenzie Long stepped up her game with a pair of treys and a bucket to keep Covington within striking distance at the break, 20-19.
“Kenzie is a player,” praised Meyer. “She’s just an athlete who can do a lot of things, including knocking down big shots. She gave us a lift in the first half.”
Covington appeared to take control of the game in the third quarter as Jordan Crowell hit a trey, Long scored on a runner and Lillian Hamilton connected on a pair of jumpers at the elbow.
“Lillie really excelled tonight,” Meyer said. “She defended well, rebounded well and hit some big shots at opportune times.”
Held in check from the floor by Houston’s smothering defense, Whiteman was able to find her way to the free throw line for four points and then ended the third quarter with a runner at the buzzer to give Covington a 34-30 advantage.
A bucket by Long and a free throw by Crowell pushed the Covington lead to seven, but a trey by New and a bucket by Jessie Monnier closed the gap.
Hamilton was able to give Covington some momentum back with a stickback, but New drilled her third trey of the contest to tie the score at 39-39.
Whiteman took over with a runner and then hit four straight free throws down the stretch to give Covington a narrow 45-41 lead.
“This is a big win on the road to start the season,” said Meyer. “A win is all that matters.”
Whiteman led all scorers with a game-high 19 points, while Makenzie Long dropped in 12 in support of the Lady Buccs’ effort.
Sarah Monnier led Houston with 14 points and Rebekah New contributed with 11.
Covington (1-0) hosts Fairlawn tomorrow at 6:00. Prior to the girls taking the floor there will be a Lady Buccs alumni basketball game.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
Covington – 9 .. 19 .. 34 .. 45
Houston – 10 .. 20 .. 30 .. 41
Sammi Whiteman – 19
Mackenzie Long – 12
Lillian Hamilton – 8
Jordan Crowell – 4
Tori Lyle – 2
Sarah Monnier – 14
Rebekah New – 11
Jessie Monnier – 9
Hayden Riesenbeck – 4
Morgan Ely – 3
Covington: Makenzie Long (2), Jordan Crowell (1)
Houston: Rebekah New (3), Sarah Monnier (2), Morgan Ely (1), Hayden Riesenbeck (1)