By Ben Robinson
ARCANUM — Trailing 30-23 after three quarters Thursday night at Arcanum, Covington coach Jim Meyer laid down a challenge to his girls.
“At the end of the third quarter I challenged the girls to show their character,” Meyer explained. “Up to that point they (Arcanum) had outplayed us. I challenged our girls to step it up in the fourth quarter.”
And “step it up” the Lady Buccs did as they swarmed Arcanum at the defensive end of the floor – preventing the Trojans from scoring a field goal throughout the entire quarter.
The only points scored by Arcanum in the final eight minutes came on two free throws.
“Our defense saved us,” said Meyer. “To hold a team like that without a basket through an entire quarter says a lot about the character of our kids. Like I told the girls after the game, ‘You never know when you’ll have an off night offensively, but you can always play defense’ – and the girls sure played some great defense in the final eight minutes.”
It was a very frustrating shooting night for Covington as it just couldn’t get shots to fall on a consistent basis throughout the entire contest – even at the free throw line where the Lady Buccs were a very uncharacteristically poor by converting just three of eight attempts.
Still Sammi Whiteman managed to keep Covington close early by scoring all six Lady Bucc points in the opening frame – a quarter where Arcanum held a 7-6 lead.
Covington was finally able to hit a big shot in the second period as senior Jordan Crowell canned a trey, but it was the only three-ball to go down for the Lady Buccs in the entire contest.
Still, it gave the Lady Buccs some momentum as Lilly Hamilton scored on a pair of buckets inside the paint and Whiteman connected on a jumper to give Covington a 16-13 lead at the break.
“It was frustrating,” said Meyer of Covington’s shooting woes. “Shots just wouldn’t fall.”
With a short bench, Covington went to a zone defense in the third quarter knowing Arcanum had the ability to get hot from the outside.
And that’s what Arcanum did as it connected on three treys in the frame to spark a 17-7 scoring advantage and a 30-23 lead with eight minutes to play.
“That’s what I was worried about,” Meyer said of playing a zone. “I knew it would open up some three-point attempts for them and unfortunately for us, they hit them. When they got hot from the outside we had no choice but to go to man.”
The strategy worked to perfection as the Covington girls showcased their unbelievable conditioning and competitive drive in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Buccs went on an 8-0 run to take a 32-30 lead before Arcanum scored its first point on the fourth quarter on a free throw with 1:26 left.
Covington then widened the floor to force the Lady Trojans to foul. This put the Lady Buccs at the free throw line twice for one-and-ones, but Covington missed on the front end of the first trip to the line and then made just one of two attempts the second time to take a slim 33-31 lead.
With 8 seconds left Covington was called for a foul, which sent Arcanum’s Gracie Garno to the line for a chance to tie the score on an one-and-one attempt. Garbo made the first and missed the second, which was rebounded by Whiteman, who was fouled immediately and sent to the line for a chance to seal the game.
Whiteman made the first free throw, but misfield on the second to give Arcanum one last chance with 5 seconds left.
After a Trojan timeout to set up a potential game-tying shot, it was the Covington defense who came up big once again by forcing the shot attempt to fall helplessly to the floor to preserve a 34-32 Lady Bucc win.
“Yes, this was an ugly win, but we’ll take it,” Meyer said. “If you play any type of athletic activity long enough, you’ll find out that sometimes you’ll have to find a way to win ugly. It’s better than losing pretty.”
For Covington, Sammi Whiteman led the way with a game-high 19 points, while Lilly Hamilton had six, Jordan Crowell five and Tori Lyle four.
The win boosts Covington’s record to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the CCC as it gets back into the gym in preparation for rival Newton next Tuesday.