By Josh Brown
COVINGTON — Covington’s sophomore standout Sammi Whiteman got the Buccaneers started.
But with her forced to sit on the bench in the second quarter with two early fouls, the Buccs’ seniors stole the show.
Lexie Long and Justice Warner put the finishing touches on a 12-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters to give Covington complete control over Cross County Conference rival Miami East, then fellow seniors Addison Metz and Allison Angle combined to add nine more points in the second half as the Buccs (14-4, 8-1 CCC) honored their five seniors on Senior Night with a convincing 42-22 victory over the Vikings Thursday night.
Metz hit a second-half three and finished with five points while Long, Warner and Angle each added four points to help the Buccs pull away from rival Miami East (7-10, 5-5 CCC). And in the closing minutes of the game, fellow senior Kara Schaffer — who has been injured all season — was able to get on the floor to a big ovation from the Covington faithful, as well.
“We’ve got four healthy seniors. This was a big night for them, and it was so awesome to see them play together and do what they did offensively in that second quarter,” Covington coach Jim Meyer said. “We made the move to them in the second quarter, and that group increased our lead. Sammie was sitting with foul trouble. You look at every senior tonight — Justice, awesome defensively. Addie Metz hit a big 3. Allie Angle hit a couple shots. Lexie just continues to play bigger inside than what she is, defensively and on the boards. I’m just proud of these kids.
“Kara, I had to get permission from the trainer, with her shoulder issues. We didn’t want any contact obviously. But she was happy, I think, to get a chance to go out on the floor. It’s been a tough season for her. She’s at every practice, at every team event, she’s in the locker room at halftime, and I’m just real happy for her to be able to get on the floor.”
Last season, the highlight matchup was between then-freshmen Whiteman and East’s Morgan Haney, with the Vikings holding on late for a 65-53 win. This time, Whiteman did the majority of her damage early, scoring 11 of her game-high 16 points in the first quarter and hitting three consecutive 3s to take the Buccs from down 8-7 to up 16-10 after one.
“They’re a different team without her, obviously,” Meyer said of the Vikings and Haney. “I know that, and our kids know that. But like Sammie said after the game, this is the first time she’s ever beaten Miami East. So this is a big thing for our kids — and especially on Senior Night, it’s a really, really special win.”
The Vikings led 8-5 early on the strength of offensive rebounding by Amber Kinnison and Haley Howard, but a Whiteman 3 put the Buccs up 10-8. Howard got the roll on a layup to tie the score at 10-10, then East called a timeout with 3:15 to go in the first quarter.
They would not connect on another field goal until there was 3:45 left in the third quarter, but by then the Buccs held a 28-14 lead.
“I took a timeout, and the wheels fell off after that,” Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said. “I felt we were a lot more patient in the early part of the game. We were getting the ball to the short corner to Amber, Haley was grabbing a couple rebounds and making some nice moves. Then they made an adjustment, packed it in a little bit, and that took away going inside a little bit — and then our outside shots just wouldn’t fall.
“We got some great shots, but you’ve got to make those shots. When you don’t, it makes the game a lot longer. When you score, you play defense a bit more energized. When you’re not scoring, you’re kind of frustrated, you don’t move a step the way you did before. Not putting the ball in the hole affects you a lot on both ends, I think.”
A lot of that had to do with Covington’s defense, though, which held the Vikings to only nine field goals in the game — with five of those coming in the first quarter and none in the second as the Buccs took a 26-12 lead at the break and 30-16 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We defended well,” Meyer said. “I told the kids at halftime that we were going to win it with our defense. We’d held them to 12 at the half, we gutted out some baskets to get a nice lead, and they had some big 3-point shooters that didn’t get loose tonight on us. Typically, that happens to us late in games, but we held them in check tonight. The kids do such a good job of understanding and following the gameplan, and they did another good job of that tonight.”
Whiteman added 10 rebounds to her 16 points to finish with a double-double. And in addition to the seniors’ contributions, Tori Lyle added four points and four rebounds, Jordan Crowell had three points and Lauren Christian had two.
Howard had 11 points and seven rebounds to lead the Vikings, Bailey Miller scored five points, Kinnison had four points and eight rebounds and Emily Hawkins had two points.
Both teams face tough tests on Saturday — Miami East hosts Fort Loramie, while Covington travels to Jackson Center.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.