By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON —- It has been widely reported —- the recent shakeup of the Cross County Conference where all but three of the member schools are planning to leave in order to form a new league.
Should it materialize —- which is likely —- the rivalries of Covington, Miami East and Bethel will fortunately remain.
Which is beneficial for Covington as evident by the atmosphere in the gym on Friday with the Bethel Bees coming to town.
Yes, Covington came up short 83-67 and there was some “friendly” trash talking between fans and student sections from both sides, but it made for a a fun night of competition between two rival schools.
That’s because Covington hates to lose to Bethel and Bethel hates to lose to Covington – regardless of the sport.
But on this occasion the night belonged to the visiting Bees as Covington didn’t have an answer for Kendall James, a Bethel senior who torched the nets for a game-high 32 points.
Covington did get out to a fast start as senior post player Gray Harshbarger was too much to handle inside early in the game. Harshbarger scored 8 points in leading Covington to a 15-6 lead in the first five minutes of the game.
That’s when Kendall James took over as he knocked down three straight treys to spark a 19-4 run to give the Bees a 25-19 lead after one period of play.
James continued is offensive onslaught in the second quarter, but outside of one more three-pointer he did his damage by driving to the basket. He scored nine points in the period and dishing the ball off to wide open teammates when the Covington defense collapsed his way.
And his teammates came through with three treys by three different players as Bethel pushed its advantage to 45-35 at the break.
Covington made a defensive adjustment after the break with Andrew Cates locking down James at the defensive end.
The strategy worked for Covington as Cates held the Bethel standout to just two field goals in the third.
Unfortunately for Covington, other Bethel players stepped up their games by hitting three clutch three-pointers and four short buckets to push the deficit for the Buccs to 68-53 at the end of the third.
But Covington has a group of kids on its roster that has some fight.
And fight the Buccaneers did as Kleyton Maschino dropped in ten points in the final frame and helped Covington cut the deficit to 72-64 with just under 4:00 left in the game.
But the clock became an issue for the Buccs as they were forced to foul down the stretch.
Bethel was able to convert the free attempts into points to hold off Covington by 16 points.
James led the Bees with 32 points.
Tompson Bean scored 14 points and Ethan Rimkus added 11.
For Covington, Kleyton Maschino led the way with 23 points, while Andrew Cates scored 11 and Gray Harshbarger tallied 10 points.
Bethel, 10-8 overall and 6-4 in the CCC, will travel to Fort Loramie Tuesday.
Covington, 3-13 on the season and 3-6 in the CCC, will host Northwestern Saturday.