By Rob Kiser
RUSSIA — Russia junior Laurissa Poling heard everyone else telling her not to do it.
But, her gut told her otherwise.
Poling’s pass to Jenna Cordonnier led to a Cordonnier basket with seven seconds to go to break a 36-36 deadlock and give the Lady Raiders a 38-36 win over Covington Tuesday night in non-conference action.
“Even though everybody was telling me not to pass it, (instead of shooting) I just had a feeling,” Poling said. “I knew that was what I was going to do.”
And Cordonnier knew it was coming — and delivered, banking it in from three feet to give Russia a 38-36 lead.
“We know each other so well,” she said. “We have been playing together for so long.”
And Covington still had one last chance. And with Sammi Whiteman scoring 19 of Covington’s 21 second-half points, Russia coach Andy Timmerman knew she wasn’t going to be the one to take the final shot.
After a Covington timeout with seven seconds to go, Russia doubled her on the inbounds.
“She is a phenomenal player,” Timmerman said about Whiteman. “But, she still found a way to get the ball to an open girl and that is a credit to her. They ended up getting a great look.”
Covington got off a 3-point shot before the buzzer, but it was off the mark, as another gutty effort by the Lady Buccs came up short.
“That shot was all you could ask for,” Covington coach Jim Meyer said. “And I know Jordan (Crowell) feels terrible. But, you know what — next time she is in that situation, she will make it.”
In one sense, the game was almost deja vu to last year’s district final, when Covington was held to a couple field goals in the second half.
This time, Covington went more than 10-minutes in the second half without a field goal — Whiteman made four free throws in the stretch — and a 21-20 lead turned into a 36-24 deficit with 4:30 remaining.
“We like to go long stretches without field goals in the second half against Russia,” Meyer said with a sarcastic smile.
Whitney Pleiman hit shots at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth quarter — and six points by Poling and two by Cordonnier made it 36-24.
“I really thought we had the momentum,” Timmerman said. “But, we didn’t handle their pressure and they hit their free throws.”
As she has done many times, Whiteman brought the Buccs back.
She scored 11 points in Covington’s 12-0 run — hitting a three with 1:11 to go to cut the Russia lead to 36-34, then hit a runner with 32 seconds to go to tie the game at 36.
“I really felt like our pressure on defense was the difference,” Meyer said. “Again, there is no quit in these kids.”
And Russia was not flustered.
“It seems like we have been in that situation a lot,” Cordonnier said.
After running the clock down, Poling got the ball on the wing — and knew exactly where to go with it.
“Laurissa (Poling) and Jenna (Cordonnier) did a great job in that situation — even though no one wanted her (Laurissa Poling) to make that pass,” Timmerman said with a grin.
Then it was just a matter of holding their breaths at the end.
Cordonnier hit two 3-pointers in the first half and had 16 points and seven rebounds to lead Russia.
Poling had 10 points and seven rebounds, Pleiman scored eight points and Cameo Wilson grabbed eight rebounds.
Whiteman finished with 23 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Lillian Hamilton scored seven points, while Tori Lyle and Lauren Christian grabbed five rebounds each.
Russia was 14 of 43 from the floor for 33 percent and eight of 11 from the line for 73 percent. Covington was 12 of 42 from the floor for 29 percent and 10 of 14 from the line for 71 percent.
Russia won the battle of the boards 31-24 and had 11 turnovers to Covington’s eight.
Russia, 12-3, will play Jackson Center Thursday, while Covington,-5, will host Greenville Thursday.
After a game in which a “gut” feeling overcame a “gutty” comeback.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.