By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — Sammi Whiteman is the ultimate team player to the point where she gets embarrassed addressing individual accomplishments.
Which is why she was a little uneasy talking about her 41-point performance that set a new school record for most points in a game in a 64-42 win over Bethel on Tuesday.
The 41 points broke the old record of 40 set by Jessie Crowell on December 18, 2014 against Franklin Monroe.
“I’m sorry I shot it so much at the end,” said Whiteman after breaking the record with just over one minute left on the clock. “My teammates kept encouraging me to go for it (the record), so I did it for them.”
And Covington coach Jim Meyer had mixed feelings about leaving Whiteman on the floor with 2:00 left.
“I typically don’t focus on a record, but she was so close,” Meyer explained. “I apologized to their coach after the game because I’ve been on the other end too. Nobody wants to have a record set against them and I’m sympathetic of that.”
Still, Meyer doesn’t regret his decision of leaving Whiteman in for one more possession to try and get the record.
“Not at all,” he said. “You can only play this game for so long and moments like this don’t come along very often. She was just two points away when I substituted the younger kids into the game and it’s not very often someone gets that close to a record. Sammi had one opportunity (to get the record) and she was able to hit the shot.”
Whiteman was on fire early as she scored 12 of Covington’s 16 points in the opening quarter to spark a 16-8 lead.
But she cooled off drastically in the second quarter with just two buckets, while Bethel got hot and outscored Covington 19-9 in the frame to take a 27-25 lead at the break.
“Bethel is a team that scares me,” Meyer said. “In every film I watched of them I saw a really good basketball team and I was concerned.”
And Meyer reminded his girls of just how good Bethel is at the break.
“I lit into them pretty good in the locker room,” he said. “I knew the third quarter would be big and I wanted our girls to understand how dangerous that team was.”
And Covington responded after the break with a 24-5 scoring run to take a 49-32 lead into the fourth quarter.
Whiteman was the spark plug with 14 points in the frame while Kenzie Long had six and Tori Lyle scored on two stick backs.
But Bethel wasn’t about to go down without a fight and quickly scored six straight points to cut the Buccaneer advantage to 11 and force Meyer to take a timeout.
Once again, it was Whiteman who stepped up with five quick points on a runner and a trey. After a Tori Lyle bucket and two free throws by Long, Whiteman hit on a jumper in the lane and another layup to push her point total to 39 and the Covington lead to 62-42 with just over two-minutes to go.
Meyer then rotated in some of the younger players with Covington taking the ball in bounds to Morgan Lowe, who passed to Whiteman near mid court. Whiteman split the Bethel defense for a runner with her right hand that went through the net for her 41st point.
A timeout was called so Whiteman could be taken out of the game to a standing ovation from the crowd.
“It feels pretty good, I guess,” Whiteman said of the record. “It’s really a team record because it wouldn’t have happened without my teammates being selfless and encouraging me to go for it.”
Even with Whiteman’s 41-point night, it wasn’t a one-person show by any means for Covington.
That’s because of the play of Tori Lyle, Kenzie Long, Morgan Lowe, Jordan Crowell and the Lady Buccs’ two bigs, Lauren Christian and Lilly Hamilton.
“This was a complete team win,” praised Meyer of his girls. “Kenzie Long and Morgan Lowe did a fabulous job defending their freshman sensation, the Grey girl and Tori hit some big shots for us. Our passing and rebounding in the post was good tonight as well.”
And Crowell, whose status prior to the game was uncertain, came up big when needed.
“Morgan (Lowe) started for Jordan because we weren’t sure if she would be able to play,” explained Meyer. “We didn’t want to use Jordan unless we absolutely had to.”
And Meyer was forced to roll the dice late in the first half.
“We had her on the bike through much of the first half and Bethel got hot there in the second quarter,” Meyer continued. “We needed a spark and Jordan said she felt good, so we put her in the game. She came in and hit a big three right before the half to give us some momentum.”
The spark by Crowell carried over into the second half where Covington outscored Bethel 39-15 en route to the 22-point win.
And Whiteman set a new school record in the process.
“You know, I’m so blessed to be a part of this,” Meyer said. “Sammi is a great player and a special kid and I’m just happy I get to be a part of it. Actually, I feel very blessed to be a part of the lives of all of these girls.”
The win boosts Covington’s record to 14-6 on the season and 7-3 in the CCC. The Lady Buccs look to keep the momentum rolling as they host National Trail on Thursday.