By Ben Robinson
NEW PARIS — Trailing 14-13 at the break and struggling to get shots to fall, the Covington Buccaneers used a 12-0 run midway through the third quarter to take the momentum away from National Trail and ultimately cruised to a 44-31 win.
“The third quarter was a big momentum swing for us tonight,” said Covington coach Matt Pond. “They slowed it down on us in the first half and the kids seemed unsure of what we were doing offensively.”
That all changed at the break thanks to some input from Covington assistant coach, Steve Dunn.
“Coach Dunn said it at the half, let’s turn it into a basketball game”, Pond continued. “We switched our defense to get into our tempo and it resulted into some easy baskets in transition.”
Coming out of the break, National Trail pushed its lead to 20-16 at the 2:00 mark and Covington didn’t allow the Blazers to score a point for nearly 5:00.
Meanwhile, the offense started clicking and Covington dropped in 12 straight points to take a 28-20 lead before a short bucket by Dalton Mason ended the drought for National Trail.
Still, the Buccaneers had the momentum heading into the fourth quarter with a 29-22 lead.
“We struggled early, but to our kid’s credit, they kept playing,” Pond said.
And once the Buccs held the lead, they knew how to finish – by making good decisions and playing team basketball, even if it meant making the extra pass to get a higher percentage shot.
“Passing the basketball for a better shot is what we need to do to be the type of team I think we can be,” said Pond. “Sure, it’s always nice to create shots off the dribble, but if we can learn to create shots off the pass, that’s good basketball.”
Which is what junior Jayce Pond nearly perfected as he played his best basketball of the season down the stretch.
“Jayce played one of his best games of the year,” praised Pond. “He made good decisions with the basketball and played under control tonight. He did a lot of good things that don’t necessarily show up in the (stat) book.”
The team basketball played by Jayce Pond became contagious as evident by junior Kenny Atkinson overlooking a shot opportunity to find sophomore Jett Murphy in the wing for a wide open three-pointer midway through the fourth quarter.
“Kenny, that’s a team player,” Pond said. “He passed up a decent shot and hit Jett for a wide open three, which was a big one in the fourth quarter. Kenny continues to give us good minutes off the bench.”
With Covington holding a double digit lead and time becoming an issue, National Trail was forced to send the Buccaneers to the free throw line in an attempt to extend the game.
And senior Jordan Maschino was the benefactor as he made 8 of 9 free throws down the stretch.
“When you get into that situation, Maschino will probably have the ball in his hands a good bit,” Pond explained. “And he knocked ‘em down. Jordan played an all-around good game tonight – scoring, defense, rebounding, hustle plays – you name it.”
Maschino ended the contest with a game-high 22 points, but it was a complete team effort by Covington that led to the win – especially after struggling mightily through the first two quarters.
“The biggest thing for us as coaches is the way our kids are coming together as a team,” summarized Pond. “That’s the most exciting thing for us as a coaching staff.”
Considering Covington’s first half struggles, the Buccaneers were very efficient from the floor – making 14 of 35 shots for 40 percent. The Buccs were also 4 of 16 from behind the arc for 25 percent and shot very well from the free throw line by making 12 of 15 shots for 80 percent.
National Trail was 12 of 44 from the floor for 27 percent, 3 of 13 from three-point range for 23 percent and just 4 of 9 from the charity stripe for 31 percent.
Covington controlled the glass by pulling down 30 rebounds to 24 for National Trail and both teams had 11 turnovers in the contest.
The win moves Covington’s record to 6-4 overall and 4-1 in the CCC as it looks to extend its winning streak to four games tomorrow night at New Bremen.