By Rob Kiser
COVINGTON — It didn’t turn out the way Covington girls basketball coach Jim Meyer had hoped Thursday night.
But he also knew the 52-42 loss to Tri-Village in a big Cross County Conference matchup had nothing to do with the Buccaneers’ effort.
Tri-Village improved to 10-2 overall and 7-0 in the CCC, while Covington dropped to 8-4 and 5-2 in the CCC.
Combined with Miami East’s win over Newton, it gives the Patriots and Vikings a two-game lead over everyone in the CCC and sets up the Jan. 11 Miami East game at Tri-Village as a title matchup.
“We had some girls that were sick,” Meyer said. “We had some girls that took some shots out there tonight. And I am not using that as an excuse. I am just trying to make the point, these girls played hard no matter the circumstances.”
In the end, Covington just couldn’t get the ball to fall — particularly in the second half — after trailing just 24-22 at the break.
“I know our second-half shooting percentage couldn’t have been very good,” Meyer said. “And we had some great looks. The ball just didn’t fall.”
And despite everything, Covington was still in the game with a couple minutes remaining.
Despite being followed everywhere by the Tri-Village defense, Sammi Whiteman scored 12 points in the fourth quarter.
And after trailing by 14 with five minutes to go, Whiteman had a steal and layup with 1:30 to go to get Covington within 42-36. But that was as close as the Buccs could get.
“That’s what Sammi (Whiteman) does,” Meyer said. “She creates shots for other people and she creates shots for herself.”
Covington had played from behind for much of the half, but Whiteman hit two free throws to close the first quarter and tie it at 12.
Tri-Village then opened a 24-16 lead late in the first half, but Whiteman had a 3-point play. And after Morgan Lowe drew an offensive foul, Whiteman dished to Jordan Crowell for a 3 at the buzzer to make it 24-22 at the break.
“We were behind,” Meyer said. “Then, Jordan (Crowell) hits that big 3. I told the girls at halftime, ‘It is a backyard brawl. You just have to go toe-to-toe with them’.”
Whiteman led all scorers with 21 points, while Kenzie Long had seven points and six rebounds and Crowell had six points and six rebounds.
Maddie Downing had a double-double for Tri-Village with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Lissa Siler added 12 points, Audi Bietry scored nine and Trisa Porter had six rebounds.
Tri-Village was 18 of 40 from the floor for 45 percent and 12 of 17 from the line for 71 percent.
Covington was 17 of 52 from the floor for 33 percent and five of 10 from the line for 50 percent.
Tri-Village won the battle of the boards 30-22 and had 10 turnovers to the Buccs’ nine.
Covington will play Milton-Union Monday.
And like always, Meyer knows he won’t have worry about the effort.