By Ben Robinson
ANSONIA — Thursday night was a special one for Sammi Whiteman and her Covington teammates because they all became a part of Lady Bucc basketball history as Whiteman became just the eighth female basketball player and fifteenth player overall in school history to score 1,000 points in a career.
And it came in typical Lady Bucc fashion with 3:08 left in the third quarter as Whiteman took a pass from Lauren Christian and faked out a defender just a few feet away from the Covington faithful to hit a three-pointer for her 1,000th career point.
“Sammi works so hard at the game and it was a great individual moment for her and a great team moment for everyone else because we got to be a part of it with her,” said an emotional Covington coach Jim Meyer.
After the shot, play was stopped to allow Whiteman to be recognized with a game ball and to give her an opportunity to share the moment with her teammates and her family in the stands.
“She’s such a great kid and I feel blessed to be able to be a witness to this accomplishment,” Meyer continued. “I’ve coached a lot of great kids and great basketball players over the years and she’s right up there with the best of them.”
Scoring opportunities were hard to come by for Whiteman in the early going as Ansonia put the clamps on her defensively.
But this opened things up for Jordan Crowell and Tori Lyle, who made the Lady Tigers pay by hitting big shots early.
“We talked about that with the girls before the game,” Meyer said of Ansonia’s defensive strategy. “We knew they would come up with a junk defense to try and stop Sammi and we needed others to step up and make plays. Tori was very aggressive to the basket and Jordan stepped up with some big threes. That forced them to change defenses and allowed Sammi to get going.”
Lyle scored all nine of her points in the first half, while Crowell hit two first half treys to spark a 32-17 halftime lead for Covington – despite Whiteman only managing two field goals in the first half along with three free throws for eight points.
With the Ansonia defense loosening up in the third, Whiteman became more assertive by dropping in a pair of buckets to push her point total to 12 by midway through the frame.
Then, with 3:08 left Whiteman hit the shot put her name in the Covington history books.
“I think Sammi was a little apprehensive early and maybe playing a little to uptight,” Meyer explained. “Once she hit the three to reach one-thousand, the entire team settled down and played much better.”
Covington was relentless rebounding the basketball and playing defense in the first half, but the intensity wavered for much of the third quarter as Whiteman got closer and close to her milestone.
“We didn’t rebound well or play good defense when we came out after the half,” said Meyer.
Fortunately for Covington, Crowell was able to hit two big threes and Lauren Christian dropped in a big bucket to help Ansonia at a distance as the third quarter came to a close with the score 47-33 in favor of the Lady Buccs.
Whiteman then took over for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter as she scored 12 points in rapid fashion before Meyer took her out with four minutes left and a 20-point lead to give the Covington fans an opportunity to show their appreciation for a special player one more time.
From there, Covington held serve the rest of the way in cruising to a 67-51 win.
“Teams like Ansonia give us problems because they are a feisty bunch who’s scrappy, but the kids did what they needed to do,” Meyer said. “Sammy got her one-thousand and we won. Everything worked out very well. What a great night.”
For Whiteman, she now has 1,012 points in her career in just 61 games for an average of 16.6 points-per-game.
And she has a lot of basketball left in what will likely go down as an historic career by the time she graduates in 2019.