By Rob Kiser
COVINGTON — The Covington girls basketball team returns a strong group from last year’s 14-10 team.
That doesn’t mean the absence of Cassidy Cain and Heidi Cron won’t be felt.
Cain, like Cron, was a part of the program for four years and averaged a double-double a year ago.
“We are going to miss Cass (Cassidy Cain) and not just her scoring,” Covington coach Craig Maschino said. “She could rebound the ball and was strong inside — she could move out and play guard when we needed her to do that. She was just a great leader.”
Cron was a player that could make things happen at any time.
“Heidi (Cron) was a girl that played stellar defense,” Maschino said. “And she could create things on offense. We are going to miss those two girls and some other girls are going to have to step up and do the things they did.”
The good news for Maschino is he has four seniors this year who provide a solid base to do that.
“This is the most experienced group I have had,” Maschino said. “It seems like the on thing we are always lacking is experience. That is not the case this year.”
Leading the returners is 5-foot-2 senior Jessie Crowell, who average more than 18 points a year ago.
Crowell missed much of her sophomore season with an ACL injury and was suspended by the OHSAA — along with girls from numerous schools — from the tournament a year ago.
“Knock on wood, we just hope to have Jessie (Crowell) for an entire season,” Maschino said. “She was healthy last year, but then had that incident where we didn’t have her for the postseason. She had a great summer and is looking better than ever.”
But, she is hardly the Lady Buccs only weapon.
Brooke Gostomsky, a 5-9 senior, averaged 9.8 rebounds and scored xx points a year ago.
“Brooke (Gostomsky) isn’t real tall, but she plays taller,” Maschino said. “And she can step out and shoot the three.”
Two other seniors with 3-point range are 5-7 Carly Shell and 5-3 Arianna Richards.
“We have four real strong seniors,” Maschino said. “And Julianna Yingst (5-5) is another senior who is going to come in and play a role for us.”
Those who picked up some valuable experience a year ago are 5-10 junior Kelsey McReynolds, 5-5 sophomore Tori Lyle and 5-4 sophomore Jordan Crowell, while 5-6 junior Lexie Long is back after not playing last season.
Also on the varsity roster are 5-6 sophomore Rayna Horner and 5-6 freshman Samantha Whiteman.
“I think all those girls (who are back) are going to play a bigger role this year and are more prepared to play,” Maschino said. “It is good to have Lexie (Long) back. Rayna Horner is a move-in from Franklin Monroe and is going to be a good player and Samantha Whiteman is still raw, but is she is coming along every day.”
Maschino said the Lady Buccs can look to push the ball and shoot the three depending on the lineup. Covington made 157 3-pointers last year.
“Sometimes, we are too quick to shoot the three, but we set a school record last year,” Maschino said. “We would like to get Brooke (Gostomsky) and Tori (Lyle) out there — sometimes at the same time, but when we don’t I like our five guard lineup as well.”
Maschino sees the CCC to be as strong as ever.
“I think Tri-Village still has to be the favorite,” Maschino said. “Brad (Gray) does a nice job with that program. Bruce (Vanover) has gone through his year of adjustment at Miami East and I expect him to have them playing well. Arcanum and Newton will both be strong. And I think Ansonia is going to be strong this year.”
Maschino has high hopes for his team as well.
“I would say our expectations are as high as they have been,” Maschino said. “We want be playing our best basketball by the 23rd game and make a strong tournament run.”
With a strong group of returners leading the way.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.