By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — Covington opened up Cross County Conference play on Friday as it played host to Mississinawa Valley and over the first six minutes of the game, things looked very bleak for the Buccaneers as the Blackhawks jumped out to a 13-0 lead.
For Covington, the rim seemed to be the size of a lemon. One by one shots would not fall, even from point blank range right under the basket.
It wasn’t until a huge three-pointer by Zach Kuntz with 1:57 left in the first that Covington was able to find the bottom of the net.
But that was the start of a 22-0 run by the Buccaneers as Covington closed out the first quarter with a bucket and two free throws by Gray Harshbarger and another free throw by Chad Yohey.
“The kids stayed together and didn’t panic,” said Covington coach Matt Pond of the 13-0 deficit. “They came over during a timeout and we sort of joked a little about being shut out. They were fine. That’s a neat thing to see from our kids is how well they respond to a little adversity.”
The Buccs then dominated the second quarter, shutting out the Blackhawks 12-0 over the entire period.
Kleyton Maschino connected on a trey and a traditional three-point play, while Yohey hit on a bucket and two free throws and Spencer Brumbaugh connected on a runner.
“We got back into it there at the end of the quarter,” Pond said. “But you have to give them (Mississinawa Valley) credit. They hit some big shots early and had all of the momentum.”
Leading 20-13 at the break, the Buccaneers opened the second half with a bucket by Andrew Cates before Mississinawa Valley ended the 22-0 run on its next possession up the floor.
“We went on a 22-0 run and never relinquished the lead,” said Pond. “And the thing that worries you after a run like that is you know the other team will make a run of their own. They did go on a little run, but our kids didn’t bat an eye.”
Every time it seemed Mississinawa Valley was getting itself back into the game, the Buccaneers responded with big shots of their own. But none were bigger than huge treys by Spencer Brumbaugh and Chad Yohey late in the third quarter.
This kept Covington in control heading into the final frame holding a 37-29 lead.
The Buccaneers pushed the advantage to 41-29 on back-to-back buckets by Maschino and Gray Harshbarger, but suddenly the Blackhawk pressure forced Covington into some untimely turnovers.
“We’re doing some different things offensively than what we did in the past,” Pond explained. “We’re trying to get up and down the floor a little bit, but with that we’ve turned the ball over more than you’d like at times. It’s a transition and a learning curve for the kids with this style of play.”
A big three-pointer and a runner by Trent Collins got Mississinawa Valley rolling and suddenly the Blackhawks were able to cut the deficit to 41-34, which forced the Buccaneers to take a timeout with just over 6:00 left in the game.
After refocusing his kids, Pond enjoyed watching his team close the show by outscoring the Blackhawks 12-10 the rest of the way for the 53-44 win.
“This is a great win this early in the season,” Pond explained. “They are very well coached and run good sets that make it hard on your defense. We put together a scouting report on the things we thought would work and the kids applied the scouting report to a tee.”
Much of the scouting report required unselfish play by the entire Buccaneer roster.
“The kids did the little things right, things that don’t show up in the stat book,” continued Pond. “For example, Tyler Fraley didn’t score, but he did some very good things away from the basketball. Jack Shell came in and gave us great minutes tonight. These kids know their roles and when it’s their time to hit the floor they play their roles.”
What pleased Pond the most was the fact that his team had four players reach double figures in scoring. Kleyton Maschino and Andrew Cates led the way with 12 points each, while Chad Yohey had 11 and Gray Harshbarger scored 10.
“We are the type of team where we have to share the basketball in order to be successful,” said Pond. “We had two kids lead us with twelve and four kids in double figures. The rest of the kids contributing in other ways and that’s what we need to give ourselves the best chance of winning.”
Winning is what Covington did on Friday to even its record at 1-1 overall and move to 1-0 in the CCC. The Buccs travel to Versailles Saturday.