By Rob Kiser
COVINGTON — The games with Covington girls basketball team being the favorite this season are over.
And given how the Lady Buccs first two tournament games went, that is not neccessarily a bad thing.
Third seeded Covington rallied from a 20-12 halftime deficit against eighth seed Twin Valley South — a team Covington had beaten 53-25 early in the season — to win 44-24.
Covington improved to 18-6, while Twin Valley South closed at 8-15.
Covington will now play 21-3 Franklin Monroe for the sectional title at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
FM, a 50-29 winner over Bradford Tuesday, beat Covington 51-35 in the regular season.
“From here on out, it has to be come out and go from the start,” Covington coach Jim Meyer said. “Really, we played as bad as we could play in the first half. But, it is about winning and moving on in the tournament and we were able to do that.”
After a stunning first half — in which the Lady Buccs trailed by eight — Meyer’s message was pretty simple at halftime.
“The first half, we did about everything wrong — we missed shots, we turned the ball over, we got in foul trouble,” Meyer said. “I just told them, ‘You girls are better than that’. I told them we were going to win our game with defense.”
Which is exactly what happened.
It took Covington less than two minutes to erase the deficit, creating some easy opportunities to score points.
Two free throws by Sammi Whiteman with 6:17 to go gave Covington a 21-20 lead.
After Twin Valley South answered with a basket by Kelsie Shafer, Whiteman scored at the other end to give Covington a 23-22 lead they would not relinquish.
The Panthers would not score again until a field goal with Mylan Crews with 1:30 left in the game as the Buccs won the second half 32-4.
Twin Valley South was 2-for-22 from the floor in the final two quarters.
“I was really proud of the way our kids came out and responded to the challenge in the second half,” Meyer said. “We held them to four points.”
Lauren Christian had a 3-point play in the third quarter — and Mackenzie Long and Tori Lyle both had baskets — with Whiteman adding 11 points as Covington took a 35-22 lead to the fourth quarter and cruised from there.
“Even the second half may have not been pretty,” Meyer said. “But, the kids hit some big shots when we needed them.”
Whiteman ended up outscoring South, finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Long and Christian both grabbed eight rebounds and Lyle pulled down five.
Crews had 12 points and six rebounds for South.
Mackenzie Neal had eight rebounds and Shafer pulled down seven.
Covington was 17 of 57 from the floor for 30 percent and nine of 15 from the line for 60 percent.
Twin Valley South was 8 of 44 from the floor for 19 percent and seven of 15 from the line for 47 percent.
Covington won the battle of the boards 35-32 and had 19 turnovers — 13 in the first half — to South’s 23.
“The games where we are favorite are over,” Meyer said. “We are the underdogs from here on out.”
Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Mackenzie Long 1-0-2, Sammi Whiteman 10-5-25, Jordan Crowell 2-0-5, Tori Lyle 1-1-3, Lauren Christian 1-1-3, Morgan Lowe 0-0-0,Morgan Kimmel 1-2-4, Brenna Miller 0-0-0, Josie Crowell 1-0-2, Haley Houshel 0-0-0, Hallie-Jo Taxis 0-0-0, Ellie Hedges 0-0-0. Totals: 17-9-44.
Twin Valley South (24)
Mylan Crews 4-3-12, Madison Johnson 0-2-2, Abby Bingham 1-0-2, Mackenzie Neal 0-2-2, Kelsie Shafer 2-0-4, Taylor Bowers 1-0-2, Alexis Bennett 0-0-0, Abby Robertson 0-0-0, Evelyn Woodward 0-0-0, Maegan Carson 0-0-0, Sidney Mowell 0-0-0, Alyssa Clark 0-0-0. Totals: 8-7-24.
3-point field goals — Covington: Crowell. Twin Valley South: Crews.
Score By Quarters
Covington 6 12 35 44
Twin Valley South 7 20 22 24
Records: Covington 18-6, Twin Valley South 8-15.