By Rob Kiser
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Matt Zircher for providing stats from the game.
TROY — As time ran out out on Covington’s 54-42 win over Legacy Christian in a Division IV district championship game at Troy High School, Lady Buccs junior guard Sammi Whiteman knew exactly what to do.
Whiteman, who had 16 points, made 12 of 14 free throws and five of eight shots from the floor, had nine rebounds and six assists — to go with just three turnovers from the point guard position after playing all 32 minutes— sprinted towards midcourt to embrace seniors Jordan Crowell and Tori Lyle.
“For sure, this was for them,” Whiteman said. “I have been lucky enough to play with them the last two years. This means a lot for us to be able to do this for them.”
Especially after last season ended on the same court, watching Russia cut down the nets after a victory over the Buccs.
“Jordan (Crowell, who was injured and did not play in the title game last year) talked about it all the time,” Whiteman said. “Getting up on the ladder and cutting down the nets. So, that was a big goal.”
And there was a lot of irony involved in this district championship.
Coach Jim Meyer happen to be the coach back in 1988-89 when the Covington girls program won its first district title — and the Buccs’ last district championship came in the 2006-07 season when Meyer’s daughter Andrea and current Covington athletic director Ashley Johnson were both key players on that team — and both were in attendance Saturday.
“She (Ashley Johnson) has always been one of my role models,” Whiteman said. “So to do be able to do something she has done, that feels good to do that.”
As for Meyer, he was just proud of what his team has accomplished.
“The girls were looking at the banners in the gym this week,” he said. “This is what you play for. To get this season up on that banner. Another 20-win season. And we have another game next week. I am just so proud of what these kids have accomplished.”
With the win, Covington improves to 20-6 and will play Fort Loramie in a Vandalia D-IV regional semifinal at 8 p.m. Thursday, while Legacy Christian closes at 22-4.
In the early going, Legacy Christian was on on fire from long range and Meyer called a timeout.
“I think we were down 11-6,” he said. “I just told the kids, ‘if they keep shooting the ball like that, we are probably not going to win. But, more than likely, they are going to cool off. And fortunately they did.”
There were several pivotal moments in the second and third quarters.
Covington was trailing 20-16 midway through the second quarter, Legacy Christian picked up a technical foul after a traveling call.
Whiteman hit both free throws and Crowell buried a three on the same possession — making it 21-20 and sparking a 12-0 run to finish the half.
“You have to take advantage when things like that happen,” Meyer said.
It was another classic “Sammi” moment to close the half.
After dribbling off most of the final 30 seconds with Covington leading 25-20, Whiteman pulled up and it hit an NBA three that found nothing but net behind the top of the key at the buzzer to make it 28-20 at the break.
“That shot was huge,” Meyer said.
Whiteman downplayed it.
“I knew my teammates trusted me,” Whiteman said. “I just needed to make the shot and I did.”
Another key for Covington was the play of the Morgans.
Sophomores Morgan Kimmel and Morgan Lowe both made big plays in the third quarter and played 13 and eight minutes respectively in the game as Covington went to a smaller lineup for defensive purposes.
“We had talked all week about who our bigs were going to guard,” Meyer, who went to the lineup late in the first quarter, said. “At halftime, we told Lauren (Christian) and Lillian (Hamilton) we felt like against them, we were going to be better playing Morgan (Kimmel) and Morgan (Lowe) and they agreed.”
Kimmel had two assists and Lowe hit a 3-pointer to put Covington up 36-26.
“I really don’t know what to say (about them),” Meyer said. “They understand what we need them to do and what they can do to help the team. They are willing to do anything we ask of them.”
Covington was up 40-29 going to the fourth quarter and despite some big shots from the Knights’ freshman Emma Hess, Legacy could never get closer than five as Covington finished off the win.
Lyle and Crowell both had big games for the Buccs as well.
Lyle was 5-for-8 from the floor and had 12 points and eight rebounds, while Crowell made three of seven 3-pointers and had 10 points.
“Those two are the heart and soul of our team,” Meyer said. “And Tori did a great job guarding (Emma) Hess. I know she had quite few points, but they were hard-earned points. And Makenzie Long did a great job on (Emily) Riddle.”
Hess made six of 11 3-pointers and finished with 22 points and five rebounds.
Kathleen Abner added 11 points, while Danielle Matthews had eight rebound and Olivia Combs picked up four assists.
Covington was 16 of 37 from the floor for 43 percent — including five of 14 from 3-point range for 36 percent. The Buccs made 17 of 25 free throws for 68 percent.
Legacy Christian was 14 of 49 from the floor for 29 percent — including nine of 30 from 3-point range for 30 percent. The Knights converted five of 10 free throws for 50 percent.
Covington won the battle of the boards 38-25 and had 12 turnovers to Legacy Christian’s eight.
Whiteman still had the net around her neck as she was being interviewed.
“That is still to be decided,” she said with a laugh about when she would take it off.
When Meyer was asked about Whiteman’s performance, he responded, “I am glad she is on my team, but don’t tell her that.”
Which brought a smile to Whiteman’s face, who was standing within earshot — just like helping making the senior’s dream a reality.
Makenzie Long 1-2-4, Sammi Whiteman 5-12-23, Jordan Crowell 3-1-10, Tori Lyle 5-2-12, Lauren Christian 0-0-0, Lillian Hamilton 0-0-0, Morgan Lowe 1-0-3, Morgan Kimmel 1-0-2. Totals: 16-17-54.
Legacy Christian (42)
Emily Riddle 1-1-4, Olivia Combs 1-0-3, Maddy Combs 0-0-0, Kathleen Abner 4-2-11, Emma Hess 7-2-22, Anne Kessinger 0-0-0, Danielle Matthews 1-0-2. Totals: 14-5-42.
3-point field goals — Covington: Whiteman, Crowell (3), Lowe. Legacy Christian: Riddle, O. Combs, Abner, Hess (6).
Score By Quarters
Covington 8 28 40 54
Legacy Christian 11 20 29 42
Records: Covington 20-6, Legacy Christian 22-4.