By Ben Robinson
BROOKVILLE — Covington girls basketball coach Jim Meyer has been around the game of basketball long enough to know that you let your shooters keep shooting, even when they may be in a slump.
Which is why Meyer never put the handcuffs on senior Jordan Crowell as she struggled putting the ball in the hole through the first two tournament games.
Because he knew he needed Crowell to be clutch for the third seeded Covington girls basketball team to have any chance of beating second seeded Franklin Monroe team in a Broookville D-IV sectional final on Tuesday.
And Crowell came through as she hit clutch shot after clutch shot – six three-pointers and a layup for a game-high 20 points to lead the Lady Buccs to a thrilling 56-44 win.
With the win Covington improves to 19-6 on the season and advances to a district championship gameat 1 p.m. on Saturday against Legacy Christian at Troy High School. FM closes the season at 21-4.
“What a performance by Jordan,” praised Meyer. “She made big shot after big shot. I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from her.”
And Meyer had a feeling someone was going to have a huge game for his team – similar to a year ago when Lexie Long had a season-high 21 points against Miami Valley.
“I told the coaches before the game that someone needed to bring out their inner Lexie Long tonight,” Meyer said. “If you remember, Lexie scored twenty-one last year over here (at Brookville) against a really good Miami Valley team. We needed another performance like that and Jordan (Crowell) was the one to deliver.”
And afterwards, Crowell couldn’t speak as she was very emotional with tears streaming down her face as she came out of the locker room.
“You know, this was a a really big one (win) for our girls,” Meyer explained. “These seniors don’t want to go home. They want to keep this season going for as long as they can, which is why this one was so emotional for everybody.”
What also made it emotional for Covington was the fact that Franklin Monroe had beaten the Lady Buccs handily during the regular season, 51-35.
“The first time we played them we didn’t play very well, which made this an exciting one,” Meyer said. “Tonight the kids built on the lead and kept battling the entire way.”
Covington jumped out to 5-0 lead as Kenzie Long opened up the contest with a trey and Tori Lyle followed with a put back.
But Franklin Monroe close out the first quarter with a 10-5 run to tie the score at 10-10 after one.
The Lady Jets then scored the first eight points of the second quarter for an 18-10 lead to force Covington to take a timeout.
“The first time we played them we were down by something like eighteen points and couldn’t recover,” explained Meyer. “We just brought them over and calmed the girls down. We told them to just play like they are capable of and we’d be fine.”
And Covington responded by going on a 14-0 run to take a 24-18 lead before Franklin Monroe hit a bucket to close out the first half.
“Part of our run was that fact that (Corina) Conley picked up her second foul and had to go to the bench,” said Meyer. “They are a different team without her on the floor. But that just shows the maturity of this team to be able to make a run like that and I felt it set the tone for the rest of the game.”
That it did because Covington never relinquished the lead the rest of the way because of the clutch shooting of Crowell, who scored 17 of her 20 points after the break, and the defensive effort across the board.
“It was one of those games where we set a defensive plan in place and the kids executed it,” described Meyer. “Franklin Monroe didn’t seem to have an answer to how we defended them. The kids executed the game plan to perfection.”
A game plan which required Kenzie Long to defend one of Franklin Monroe’s most dangerous offensive players, Belle Cable.
“Kenzie’s Long defensive effort against Cable was huge,” Meyer said. “When Kenzie does those things, it makes us so much better.”
Another huge factor defensively for Covington was the effort inside by post players Lauren Christian, Tori Lyle, Lilly Hamilton and Morgan Kimmel.
“Our post players really played well at both ends of the floor,” praised Meyer. “Defensively, they did a great job of making their big girl (Conley) work for everything she got. She’s a talented player and we were able to hold her to three field goals.”
Crowell and Sammi Whiteman, who accounted for a combined 35 points on the night, also had a huge impact at the defensive end as well.
“Jordan and Sammi – also Morgan Lowe for that matter – they did a great job of getting into the passing lanes and forcing turnovers,” Meyer continued. “Defensively, this was really one of our better efforts this season because that’s a really good basketball team over there.”
Whiteman finished with 15 points on the night, but her game is so much more than scoring points. The junior standout made things happen despite being double and triple teamed all night.
“The fifteen points Sammi scored tonight were hard-earned points,” Meyer said. “Yes, she is our leading scorer, but she does so much more for us. She gets us into our offense and defends really, really well. She’s able to see the floor so well and always makes the right decisions with the basketball.”
It was a great team effort across the board by Covington, an effort that was needed to beat a very good Franklin Monroe team.
But the ultimate difference was the clutch shooting of Jordan Crowell.