By Ben Robinson
BRADFORD — Leading 27-15 at the break and seemingly having things going their way, the Covington Buccaneers suddenly found themselves in a dog fight in the season half against neighboring rival Bradford on Friday.
That’s because Bradford came out of the locker room with a purpose, starting the second half on an 8-2 run and eventually took a 35-34 lead in the waning moments of the third frame.
But Covington’s Trevor Miller responded with a huge trey to close out the third with the Buccaneers holding a 37-35 advantage.
“We rushed some shots early in the second half and they (Bradford) hit some big threes to get back in it,” said Covington coach Matt Pond. “Trevor (Miller) hit a three and that was big.”
Bradford then tied the score at 37-37 to start the fourth quarter, but Covington once again responded by converting two steals into layups on consecutive possessions to force the Railroaders to take a timeout with 6:30 left in the game.
After the timeout, Covington picked up the defensive pressure, limiting open looks at the basket for Bradford’s outside shooters.
The Buccs increased their advantage to 52-45 with just under 2:00 to go, which forced the Railroaders to foul in an attempt to lengthen the game. The strategy worked as Covington could only convert on four of its free throws down the stretch, but the Railroaders couldn’t connect on the big shots needed to get back into the game.
The end result was a 56-48 Buccaneer victory in a game that saw two teams lay everything they had on the floor.
“I’d like to give Bradford’s kids credit because they left it all on the floor tonight,” praised Pond. “We know a lot of those kids over there and they are some great kids. They’re going to have a good season if they keep playing that hard.”
As for his team, Pond was pleased with the grit and determination his team showed in a tough environment.
“Our kids played hard too,” he said. “Our attention to detail in the post was big for us. Bradford has two kids in there (Drew Patty and Josh Phillips) who are loads inside and we held them to four combined points.”
Bradford’s ability to hit the outside shot and make hustle plays is what forced Covington to make adjustments, particularly in the second half.
“They shot the ball really well from the outside and we switched to a zone,” Pond explained. “I think our quickness affected their shooters down the stretch.”
Also coming up big down the stretch was the lone senior on the Covington roster, Jordan Maschino.
“Jordan Maschino rose to the top in the last three minutes,” said Pond. “It doesn’t show up so much on the stat sheet, but he made some great defensive plays and played very unselfish at the offensive end. He passed up some good shots and passed the ball for even better shots. That’s the type of leadership we’ll need all season long.”
What also made the win more special for Covington is the fact that it came in a hostile environment against a very determined team.
“This was a great high school environment with both students sections being loud and getting into the game,” said Pond. “I know our kids appreciated the support we received from our student section and surely their kids feel the same for their student section. This is what high school basketball is all about.”
Statistically, Covington converted on 21 of 45 shots attempts from the floor for 45%, 2 of 8 from the three-point line (25%) and 12 of 22 free throws for 55%.
Bradford was 18 of 47 from the floor (38%), 8 of 22 from three-point range (39%) and 5 of 12 from the line (42%).
Covington held a 37-25 advantage on the boards and a 9-5 edge on the offensive glass.
Both teams committed 10 turnovers in the contest.
Covington is 1-0 with the win and hosts Versailles tonight, while Bradford drops to 1-1 with a road trip to Fairlawn on the schedule tonight.