By Rob Kiser
and Josh Brown
TROY — As time ran out out on the Covington girls basketball team’s 54-42 win over Legacy Christian in a Division IV district championship game at Troy High School, Buccaneer junior guard Sammi Whiteman knew exactly what to do.
Whiteman — who had 16 points, made 12 of 14 free throws and 5 of 8 shots from the floor, had nine rebounds and six assists to go with just three turnovers from the point guard position after playing all 32 minutes — sprinted towards midcourt to embrace seniors Jordan Crowell and Tori Lyle.
“For sure, this was for them,” Whiteman said. “I have been lucky enough to play with them the last two years. This means a lot for us to be able to do this for them.”
Especially after last season ended on the same court, watching Russia cut down the nets after a victory over the Buccs.
“Jordan (Crowell, who was injured and did not play in the title game last year) talked about it all the time,” Whiteman said. “Getting up on the ladder and cutting down the nets, so that was a big goal.”
And there was a lot of irony involved in this district championship.
Coach Jim Meyer happen to be the coach back in 1988-89 when the Covington girls program won its first district title — and the Buccs’ last district championship came in the 2006-07 season when Meyer’s daughter Andrea and current Covington athletic director Ashley Johnson were both key players on that team — and both were in attendance Saturday.
“She (Ashley Johnson) has always been one of my role models,” Whiteman said. “So to do be able to do something she has done, that feels good to do that.”
As for Meyer, he was just proud of what his team has accomplished.
“The girls were looking at the banners in the gym this week,” he said. “This is what you play for. To get this season up on that banner. Another 20-win season. And we have another game next week. I am just so proud of what these kids have accomplished.”
With the win, Covington improves to 20-6 and will play Fort Loramie in a Vandalia D-IV regional semifinal at 8 p.m. Thursday, while Legacy Christian closes at 22-4.
In the early going, Legacy Christian was on fire from long range, and Meyer called a timeout.
“I think we were down 11-6,” he said. “I just told the kids, ‘if they keep shooting the ball like that, we are probably not going to win. But, more than likely, they are going to cool off. And fortunately they did.”
There were several pivotal moments in the second and third quarters.
Covington was trailing 20-16 midway through the second quarter, Legacy Christian picked up a technical foul after a traveling call.
Whiteman hit both free throws and Crowell buried a 3 on the same possession — making it 21-20 and sparking a 12-0 run to finish the half.
“You have to take advantage when things like that happen,” Meyer said.
It was another classic “Sammi” moment to close the half.
After dribbling off most of the final 30 seconds with Covington leading 25-20, Whiteman pulled up and it hit an NBA three that found nothing but net behind the top of the key at the buzzer to make it 28-20 at the break.
“That shot was huge,” Meyer said.
Whiteman downplayed it.
“I knew my teammates trusted me,” Whiteman said. “I just needed to make the shot, and I did.”
Another key for Covington was the play of the Morgans.
Sophomores Morgan Kimmel and Morgan Lowe both made big plays in the third quarter and played 13 and eight minutes respectively in the game as Covington went to a smaller lineup for defensive purposes.
“We had talked all week about who our bigs were going to guard,” Meyer, who went to the lineup late in the first quarter, said. “At halftime, we told Lauren (Christian) and Lillian (Hamilton) we felt like against them, we were going to be better playing Morgan (Kimmel) and Morgan (Lowe) and they agreed.”
Kimmel had two assists and Lowe hit a 3-pointer to put Covington up 36-26.
“I really don’t know what to say (about them),” Meyer said. “They understand what we need them to do and what they can do to help the team. They are willing to do anything we ask of them.”
Covington was up 40-29 going to the fourth quarter and despite some big shots from the Knights’ freshman Emma Hess, Legacy could never get closer than five as Covington finished off the win.
Lyle and Crowell both had big games for the Buccs as well.
Lyle was 5 for 8 from the floor and had 12 points and eight rebounds, while Crowell made 3 of 7 3-pointers and had 10 points.
“Those two are the heart and soul of our team,” Meyer said. “And Tori did a great job guarding (Emma) Hess. I know she had quite few points, but they were hard-earned points. And Makenzie Long did a great job on (Emily) Riddle.”
Hess made 6 of 11 3-pointers and finished with 22 points and five rebounds.
Kathleen Abner added 11 points, while Danielle Matthews had eight rebound and Olivia Combs picked up four assists.
Covington was 16 of 37 from the floor for 43 percent — including five of 14 from 3-point range for 36 percent. The Buccs made 17 of 25 free throws for 68 percent.
Legacy Christian was 14 of 49 from the floor for 29 percent — including nine of 30 from 3-point range for 30 percent. The Knights converted five of 10 free throws for 50 percent.
Covington won the battle of the boards 38-25 and had 12 turnovers to Legacy Christian’s eight.
Whiteman still had the net around her neck as she was being interviewed.
“That is still to be decided,” she said with a laugh about when she would take it off.
When Meyer was asked about Whiteman’s performance, he responded, “I am glad she is on my team, but don’t tell her that.”
Which brought a smile to Whiteman’s face, who was standing within earshot — just like helping making the senior’s dream a reality.
* Boys Basketball
CLAYTON — Any rust from the Bethel boys basketball team’s first-round bye was long gone by Saturday.
The second-seeded Bees, who began slow in their first postseason game before rolling to a win, built an 11-point lead after the first quarter in Saturday’s Division III sectional championship game against Waynesville, defeating the 15th-seeded Spartans 75-49 to advance to Tuesday’s district final.
Bethel (19-5) led 22-11 after one quarter Saturday, but Waynesville (11-13) closed to within eight at 36-28 at halftime. A big third quarter put the Bees up by 11 heading into the fourth at 56-35, though, and Bethel cruised from there.
It was the Bees third straight sectional championship — but first without senior point guard Caleb South, who missed most of the year with an injury and returned, only to be injured again in the penultimate game of the regular season.
“He’s one of the top three players to ever come through Bethel, so it hurts,” Bethel coach Brett Kopp said. “But we’ve got kids who play hard and defend, and we have some skills, and when you do all that, even without Caleb, good things are going to happen.
“When he first went out, I told the kids that if we don’t win the league title, whoever wins it isn’t going to put an asterisk by it because Caleb wasn’t here. We’ve just got to keep going and play as hard as we can for as long as we can and see what happens.”
The Bees had plenty of other players step up Saturday.
Alex Van Haaren had his second triple-double of the year with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shots, one of four Bees in double digits. Ryan Rose scored 22 points to lead the team, Korry Hamlin and Jacob Evans each scored 13, Kendal James scored seven, Jared Evans added four, Nick Schmidt scored two and Seann Russell and Ben Lawson each scored one.
“We’ve got to be able to spread the ball around, and we did that tonight,” Kopp said. “We took good shots all night long. They tried to take Ryan away and we ran some good sets, but he’s also unselfish and got other guys involved.
“Alex struggled a little Wednesday, so I told him to have fun. When you have fun and play hard, good things are going to happen. And Korry, he defended their best player — and I don’t even think he got two shots off. That’s what Korry does. I know when I say ‘Korry, guard him,’ that kid is going to be shut down.”
Bethel will face North College Hill in the district final Tuesday at UD Arena.
“For us to make it to the district final for the third straight year is pretty impressive,” Kopp said. “It was a good win. We’re happy with where we’re at, and we’ve just got to keep getting better.”
Rob Kiser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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