By Josh Brown
TROY — Given that the team’s leader, Sammi Whiteman, couldn’t play past the midway point of the first quarter due to a nagging injury that kept her out of Wednesday night’s game, as well, Covington girls basketball coach Jim Meyer thought the best thing possible for his team stuck in that situation happened.
The Buccaneers discovered that they can still win.
Covington’s defense disrupted everything that Troy attempted to do Saturday afternoon, forcing 20 turnovers and holding the Trojans to a mere two points in the second quarter. And on the other end, three Buccs reached double digits as Covington pulled away for an impressive 42-28 victory over Troy at the Trojan Activities Center.
Itwas a particularly big win for the Buccs (8-3) given that, playing without Whiteman on Wednesday, they struggled in a loss to Springfield Shawnee.
“The two games we had to play this week without Sammi, Wednesday night was close for a while. But to win today against Troy, a Division I team, I think that’s the best thing that could happen to us, to know that we can do that without Sammi,” Meyer said. “And when we get Sammi back, if everyone can keep their games elevated, we should be able to do some really good things. It was a great effort today.
“Sammi and I had a deal — if there was any kind of pain, she was coming out. She was honest, she came out, we tried to see if she could go at halftime and she couldn’t, so she’s going to need a few more days to rest. But I was just so pleased with our kids. All seven that played just did a great job.”
Troy, meanwhile, head into the New Year’s break at 5-5 following Saturday’s disappointing effort, especially given the strong showing in Wednesday’s last-second win over Fairborn. And even though the Trojans held the lead 11-8 after the first quarter and as late as 13-11 with 5:30 left in the first half, they simply couldn’t hold on.
“I thought we played a pretty decent first quarter. We had some defensive lapses, but for the most part I was pleased with the execution. From then on, it seemed like every bad habit, all the things we’ve needed to fix throughout the season, came back to bite us,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said. “Our ability to run an offense, to make passes, a lot of the fundamental concepts that we’ve been trying to work on, it was obvious that we didn’t do that.
“I think we were outcoached, and a direct reflection of that is how we were out-executed. To me, that’s coaching. And Covington played harder. They got more loose balls, they wanted it, and we were kind of going through the motions.”
And the Buccs figured out what those motions were halfway through the second quarter — and they jumped on it.
Makenzie Long had seven steals in the game, consistently disrupting Troy’s passes around the perimeter of Covington’s zone defense, helping make sure that the Trojans could neither work the ball inside or get it to open shooters. And when Troy did try to shoot over the zone, they faced contested shots and simply couldn’t get them to fall.
“Troy’s got good shooters and a really strong inside game,” Meyer said. “Our big thing was to try to match their physicality and go toe-to-toe with them, and our kids did that. We hit some big shots, had some big steals. Our scouting report, we knew who their shooters were, we knew where they were, and I thought our kids did a good job of covering them.”
Trailing 13-11 in the second quarter, the Buccs closed the half on a 7-0 run by forcing seven of those 20 turnovers in that quarter alone, then Jordan Crowell hit the first of her two 3s to kick off the second half and cap off a 10-0 run before Troy’s Kiyha Adkins scored on a putback in transition to make the score 21-15 Covington. Alaura Holycross finished off a layup after a MaKenna Taylor steal to cut the lead to four at 21-17, but Crowell hit a jumper and Long turned a steal into a three-point play in transition, helping Covington take a 32-19 lead after three — and the Buccs coasted from there.
Crowell had 12 points and Victoria Lyle added 12 points and a team-high six rebounds to lead the Buccs, while Long tacked on 11 points. Lillian Hamilton scored four, Whiteman had the first two points of the game and Morgan Lowe scored one.
“Those are the things those three need to give,” Meyer said of Crowell, Lyle and Long. “That’s two seniors and a sophomore, and they really stepped up today.”
Holycross had eight points and eight rebounds and Dana Wynkoop hit Troy’s only two 3s and scored eight points to lead the Trojans. Adkins and Laura Borchers both added four points, Tia Bass had two points and four rebounds, Erika Innes had two points and Valena Robinson had four assists.
“Covington’s a good team with or without Whiteman,” Johnson said. “With her, she makes them a great team, but they’re a good team, period. And they exploited a ton of our weaknesses.”
The Buccs have a critical Cross County Conference matchup up next, hosting reigning conference champion and current leader Tri-Village on Thursday. Troy, meanwhile, is off until Jan. 8 when it hosts Cedarville to finish a six-game homestand.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.