By Rob Kiser
CASSTOWN — The Miami East girls basketball team took another step toward an outright Cross County Conference title Thursday night.
But, the visiting Covington girls didn’t make it easy.
The Lady Buccs took a 30-26 to the fourth quarter, but East wasn’t going to be denied.
East opened the fourth quarter with a 13-2 onslaught and rode that momentum to a 52-40 win.
East is now 14-3 overall and 9-0 in the CCC with conference games remaining with Mississinawa Valley and National Trail.
“After we beat Tri-Village (the Patriots only loss in conference play), we talked about the ‘Drive for Five’,” Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said about the final five conference games. “We weren’t looking past anyone. And we knew this game with Covington was just as big as the Tri-Village.
“That is a good team. They only had two losses in the conference coming in.”
While Covington drops to 12-6 overall and 5-3 in the CCC, the Lady Buccs had exactly what they wanted for three quarters.
“We did,” Covington coach Jim Meyer said. “But, at the same time, we knew how Miami East could shoot threes.”
The Lady Vikings scored half of their 52 points in the fourth quarter, led by Camrym Miller’s 11 points.
Bailey Miller started the fourth quarter with a three, Haley Howard had a 3-point play and Camryn Miller hit a three during the early run.
“We were just really struggling to score,” Vanover said. “Bailey (Miller) and Haley (Howard) are seniors and Camryn (Miller) — that is why we run the motion offense, because of what she can do from up top. And Morgan Haney got going there in the fourth quarter.”
Meyer pointed out two pivotal plays.
One was a rebound bouncing out of a Covington’s players hands and Maria Staton grabbing it and kicking it out to Camryn Miller for a three — and the other was backside rebound by Camryn Miller for two points.
“I thought those were two pivotal plays,” Meyer said. “That was five quick points.”
Camryn Miller added another three to make it 42-34 with 4:00 to play and Covington could never get closer than seven the rest of the way.
“You have to give the girls credit for the way they stepped up in the fourth quarter,” Vanover said. “I thought we were getting just as good a shots as Covington. We just weren’t hitting (until the fourth quarter).”
Meyer had nothing praise for his team.
“I can’t say enough about the job Kenzie (Long) did on Morgan Haney,” Meyer said. “I know she ended up with 14, but she was under 10 for most of the game. These kids just play so hard.”
The game had started with Miami East scoring six quick points.
The Vikings still led 8-2, before Covington took a 13-11 first quarter lead and led 24-21 lead at half.
Sammi Whiteman had 13 points for Covington in the first half.
“After we got that lead, Sammi (Whiteman) kind of got rolling,” Vanover said. “We just didn’t play very good defense. The idea was to keep Sammi in front of us. Once she gets in the middle, anything can happen. She can kick it out, dish it inside or score herself.”
Howard kept East in the game with 12 first-half points, including two threes.
“Haley (Howard) and those threes,” Vanover said with a laugh. “If you don’t come out on her, she will shoot them.”
And while Covington was still up 30-26 after three quarters, the Lady Buccs failed to score for almost five minutes to start the second half.
“We had several possessions there with a chance to extend the lead and we weren’t able to do it,” Meyer said.
Vanover credited his defense.
“I thought our defense was much better the second half,” he said. “We didn’t have any help-side defense the first half.”
And eventually, Miami East made Covington pay for those missed opportunities with a 26-10 advantage in the final quarter.
Howard had 15 points and seven rebounds, while Haney had 14 points and five rebounds. Camryn Miller scored 14 points and Bailey Miller added seven.
Whiteman had a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds, while Tori Lyle had eight points and seven rebounds.
Miami East was 19 of 43 from the floor for 44 percent and eight of 10 from the line for 80 percent.
Covington was 19 of 48 from the floor for 40 percent and one of three from the line for 33 percent.
Covington won the battle of the boards 25-20, but had 10 turnovers to East’s eight.
Covington hosts Jackson Center Saturday, while Miami East goes to Fort Loramie.
Before the Lady Vikings look to complete the final two steps of the “Drive for Five” and a CCC title.
Kenzie Long 1-0-2, Sammi Whiteman 11-1-23, Lillian Hamilton 2-0-4, Jordan Crowell 1-0-3, Tori Lyle 4-0-8, Lauren Christian 0-0-0. Totals: 19-1-40.
Miami East (52)
Bailey Miller 3-0-7, Morgan Haney 5-3-14, Camryn Miller 4-4-14, Kaitlyn Mack 0-0-0, Haley Howard 6-1-15, Anna Jacomet 0-0-0, Maria Staton 1-0-2, Mikayla Schaffner 0-0-0. Totals: 19-8-52.
3-point field goals — Covington: Crowell. Miami East: B. Miller, Haney, C. Miller (2), Howard (2).
Score By Quarters
Covington 13 24 30 40
Miami East 11 21 26 52
Records: Covington 12-6 (5-3), Miami East 14-3 (9-0).
Reserve score: Miami East 39-23.