By Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
BRANDT — In a normal week, following a big win over Russia with a road win in the CCC over Bethel would be a pretty good week for the Covington girls basketball team.
But, this has been anything but a normal week at Covington.
So, what took place on the gym floor paled in comparison to what transpired outside the gym doors.
On Monday morning, the Hamilton family suffered something no one should have to go through.
Covington senior Lillian Hamilton, sophomore Jakob Hamilton, younger brother Joesph Hamilton and their mother Katie Hamilton lost their father and husband John “Matt” Matthew Hamilton to an unexpected death at the age of 42.
“It has been a rough week for us,” Covington girls basketball coach Jim Meyer said after the Buccs 42-29 win over the Bees Thursday night.
And, as those familiar with Covington would expect, the team and community have rallied around the Hamiltons. Lillian plays for the Covington girls and Jakob plays for the Covington boys.
And with the Russia game scheduled for Tuesday, Lillian showed tremendous courage, insisting that the game go on so she could play for her dad.
“Lillian (Hamilton) to keep things as normal as possible,” Meyer said. “She didn’t just play. She played well in both games. I can’t say enough about her.”
But, those feelings are for his entire team as well.
“I am just so proud of all the girls,” Meyer said “Obviously, Lillian has lost a lot of sleep over this. A number of the girls have lost sleep over this, rallying around Lillian, staying with her, talking to her and doing everything they can to help her.”
As for the game itself, Covington saw the defense they know they will see after Tri-Village’s success last week. Bethel went to a triangle-and-two with both girls on Sammi Whiteman.
“We know we are going to see that defense a lot now,” Meyer said.
But, unlike the Tri-Village game, Whiteman found a way to score 16 points in the opening half as Covington jumped out to a 23-4 lead and led 29-10 at the break.
“Sammi (Whiteman) did Sammi things,” Bethel coach Corey Steinke said. “She is an incredible player. That (getting behind) has been our MO all year. And we got in foul trouble. I wish we had played as well defensively in the second half. We held her to six points in the second half.”
While Bethel outpointed Covington 19-13 in the second half, the Bees could never get closer than the final margin.
One key for Covington was 47 rebounds, including 20 offensive rebounds.
“I thought we played really well in the first half,” Meyer said. “We did a good job on the boards.”
Neither team had a lot of success at the foul line, particularly Bethel.
“We were nine for 25 from the line and we lost by 13 points,” Steinke said. “You can do the math. Covington missed a lot of free throws too, but not as many as we did.”
Covington, 14-2 overall and 8-1 in the CCC, trails Tri-Village by one game.
“It is what we needed, another conference win,” Meyer said. “It doesn’t have to be pretty. We know we need some help (to get a share of the conference title). We came off a tough game Tuesday and practiced for maybe 45 minutes last night (Wednesday).”
Whiteman led Covington with 22 points and Morgan Lowe hit a couple big threes and finished with eight points.
Bethel dropped to 9-7 overall and 3-6 in the CCC with the loss.
Natalie Moorman led the Bees with nine points and Claudia Lowery added five.
Covington will play Greenville Monday, while Bethel hosts Piqua the same night.
“This team has shown so much character,” Meyer said about his squad.
And it had everything to do with what has gone on outside the gym doors, not inside them.
Contact Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser at (937) 451-3334 or firstname.lastname@example.org