DECEMBER 14, 2018 - PITSBURG
Sometimes you can have the perfect game plan, execute the game plan to the best of your ability by playing inspired basketball and leaving every ounce of effort you have on the floor - only to find that no matter what you do there is someone in another jersey who is at another level - who is just that good.
That's when you tip your hat and give credit to your opponent.
The Covington Buccaneers found themselves in that situation on Friday at Franklin Monroe as the host Jets were led by a rare talent, senior Ethan Conley.
Consider, with three-minutes left in the third quarter the Buccaneers had the game going their way. Tied at 41-41, Covington had frustrated Conley and the Jets by executing a defensive plan to contain the Franklin Monroe senior standout who had scored 54 points a week earlier against Houston.
At the time Conley had scored 19 points - all hard earned points as the Buccs challenged him at every turn, on every shot.
But in the process two of Covington's premier defenders, Andrew Cates and Gray Harshbarger, found themselves in foul trouble and were forced to the bench. Conley decided it was time to take the game over and scored 18 points in a 37-5 run, including three gut-wrenching three-pointers.
It was too much for Covington to overcome in an 80-50 defeat.
"We fought with foul trouble a lot tonight," said Covington Matt Pond. "That's the thing, they expanded the lead and we took some quick shots that maybe weren't the best shots we could take at the time. But it's because these kids are playing their butts off, so I'll take it."
For Franklin Monroe, coach Troy Myers was pleased to see how his team responded to the adversity Covington presented.
"We changed tempo there in the third," Myers said. "I thought our guys were super aggressive and got a lot of points in transition, which really helped our cause. When you go up fifty-three to forty-three at the end of the third after it was tied at forty-one, that's a credit to the kids. With a minute-and-a-half in the third I called a timeout and I said 'Let’s run'. And a minute-and-a-half into the fourth we were up twenty."
In the early going it looked as though Franklin Monroe was on its way to a blowout win as Conley scored 9 points in the opening frame, including a 35-foot trey at the buzzer, to spark a 21-9 lead.
But Covington battled back to tie score at 29-29 before Franklin Monroe scored the final four points of the half to go into the locker room with a 33-29 lead.
Thanks to a trey by Kleyton Maschino and buckets by Zach Kuntz and Chad Yohey, the Buccs were able to tie the score at 41-41 with 3:00 left in the third.
"These kids play their tails off," Pond said. "We fell behind early and came back. We need to figure out how to play four quarters."
A game is four quarters and unfortunately the Buccaneers hit a long scoring drout the rest of the game.
And with Harshbarger and Cates in foul trouble and eventually fouling out, there was no containing Ethan Conley.
"He's a very nice player," Pond said of Conley. "But, you can't take anything away from our kids' effort. We pushed the ball up the floor in transition better than we have to this point. We just struggled to hit some shots in the fourth quarter."
Franklin Monroe went on a 24-2 run before a Chad Yohey layup and then closed the show with Conley hitting his 37th point at the free throw line with around 2:00 left to push the Jet advantage to 78-46. Conley was then taken out of the game to a standing ovation from the Franklin Monroe faithful.
"They were running two (defenders) at Ethan all night," Myers explained. "We knew this was coming this year, obviously with Ethan carrying the load. So, we’ve been stressing to Ethan, 'Let's grow your game and expand with the team'. He's reading the floor really well when those traps come and recognizing what the defense is giving him."
In the end, it was a case where Ethan Conley was at another level than any other player on the floor.
Yes, it led to a Buccaneer defeat by 30 points, but the point differential doesn't take away from the effort the Covington Buccaneers put forth on this night.
"When you look at it, we were right there with them until we got into foul trouble," Pond explained. "He (Conley) is a great player, and there is no doubt about that. But I'm proud of how hard our kids play. If we keep playing with this same intensity and this same attitude, things will start going our way."
The defeat drops Covington to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in the CCC with the next contest slated for next Tuesday at home against rival Bradford.
Covington: 9 …. 20 …. 14 …. 7 - 50
Franklin Monroe: 21 …. 12 …. 10 ….27 = 80
Kleyton Maschino - 12
Zach Kunts - 10
Chad Yohey - 8
Tyler Fraley - 7
Gray Harshbarger - 5
Spencer Brumbaugh - 2
Andrew Cates - 2
Jack Shell - 1
Kadin Presser - 1
Jakob Hamilton - 1
Jaden Barhorst - 1
FRANKLIN MONROE SCORING:
Ethan Conley - 37
Jackson Crist - 12
Connor Crist - 9
Gage Vance - 8
Jordan Rhoades - 6
Ky Cool - 4
Luke Booher - 4
Covington: Kuntz (2), Maschino (1), Fraley (1)
Franklin Monroe: Conley (4), Vance (2), Connor Crist (1)