By Ben Robinson
LEWISBURG — What do you do when your leading scorer is on the bench just minutes into the game in foul trouble?
What do you do when shot after shot bounces off the rim from point blank range, negating sure points near the rim?
What do you do when the game turns ugly due to the physical play?
The answer — play defense.
Yes, there are nights where things won’t go your way offensively. Every team has an off night one time or another shooting the basketball. But, there’s never an excuse when it comes to playing defense.
And boy, did the Covington girls basketball team play some defense Thursday night in a 43-16 victory over Tri-County North in the Cross County Conference opener.
Consider, the Buccaneers held the host Panther scoreless until a free throw in the opening minute of the second period.
And also consider, the Buccs held North to just eight points in the second period and surrendered just four points in each of the final two frames.
“Anytime you hold a team to 16 points, you have to be happy with the defensive effort,” said Covington coach Jim Meyer. “You can always play defense, no matter how you do offensively.”
All of this while seeing several players in foul trouble, including senior standout Sammi Whiteman, who picked up two quick fouls in the opening three minutes of the game.
“I don’t think I did a very good job of having the girls mentally prepared tonight,” said Covington coach Jim Meyer. “That attributed to the dumb fouls. We also missed a lot of shots from point-blank range and that’s on me.”
Still, Covington built an 8-0 lead after one thanks to a pair of buckets by Lauren Christian, a free throw by Morgan Kimmel and a trey by Morgan Lowe.
Tri-County North had its most successful quarter in the second with eight points, but another huge trey by Lowe and a pair of buckets by Whiteman led to a 17-8 lead at the break.
“It’s wasn’t pretty,” said Meyer of the first half. “To say we didn’t play very well is an understatement.”
Covington didn’t exactly light it up in the second half either, but had enough offensive success to make for a lopsided score.
Whiteman scored 14 of her game-high 18 points in the second half before being taken out of the game for good with just under five minutes left in the game.
Still, it was the Bucc defense that continually harassed Tri-County North ball handlers and contested every shot opportunity. Leading the charge was junior Morgan Kimmel, who excels at doing the dirty work.
“Morgan Kimmel is willing to stick her nose in there, that’s for sure,” Meyer said. “She stepped in to get a charging call and every time there was a loose ball she was on the floor. Those are big plays in a game.”
In the end, it wasn’t the type of performance Meyer will use as a teaching tool for playing Bucc basketball. But it was a performance where the defense was the reason Covington came away with a 3-0 record.
“That’s what I ask the kids to do,” said Meyer in regards to kids team playing defense. “Defensively, our kids got after it. If there’s a phase in the game where you need to play well every night out, it’s defensively.”
Which is what Covington did on Thursday.