JANUARY 31, 2019 - COVINGTON
In spite of the brutal winter weather, there was a packed gymnasium at Covington High School Thursday night to see two very good basketball teams battle on the hardwood - Covington and Miami East.
And there was an added bonus as the game feature two once-in-a-generation players, Covington's Sammi Whiteman and Miami East's Morgan Haney. Rarely are fans treated with seeing two players of the caliber of Haney and Whiteman on the same floor in small school basketball.
And both players put on a show.
But it was Haney and Miami East who ultimately won the night, holding off a second half comeback by Covington for the 66-57 win.
"We needed this game bad tonight," Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said after his team improved to 14-6 on the season. "We took Fort Loramie into overtime last Saturday, then we just took a beating against Tri-Village. The girls came out ready to play from the start."
For Covington, who dropped just its third game in 18 outings, it was a horrid first half at both ends of the floor that ultimately spelled doom. Offensively the Lady Buccs struggled to hit shots and defensively they had a hard time containing Morgan Haney, who scored 18 first half points to lead Miami East to a 36-19 lead at the break.
And despite the 17-point halftime lead at the break, Vanover knew his couldn't become complacent in the second half.
"I told our kids, if you think this game is over, you are crazy," Vanover said. "Jim Meyer is a good coach and he makes good adjustments."
And Meyer used a little psycology at halftime to give his team a boost.
"When we came in at halftime, I told the girls about my daughter's (Andrea Meyer) senior year," he said. "We were down double digits at halftime against Miami East and it came down to a last second shot."
Covington made it's run as Whiteman and Claudia Harrington with back-to-back tree-pointers to open the second half.
But Miami East countered with a three by Haney and a basket by Whitley Gross and was still up 41-25 with 4:59 left in the quarter when the game changed.
Whiteman hit a three, Harrington hit two more, Morgan Kimmel hit two free throws and Whiteman had a putback to get the Buccs within 43-38 with 1:30 to go in the third.
With momentum slipping away, Miami East turned to its star player - Morgan Haney.
And the senior came through after the Lady Vikings dribbled the clock down for one last shop attempt to end the period. Haney was able to hit the shot from a least two feet behind the three-point line with two defenders in her face.
"I thought about calling timeout, but coach Gump (assistant coach Kevin Gump) said we can run Buckeye and save a timeout," Vanover explained. "That three by Morgan (Haney) was huge."
The shot pushed the Miami East lead to 46-38 with one quarter to play, but Covington continued to battle behind the leadership of Whiteman and the clutch shooting of Claudia Harrington.
"They made a good adjustment against our zone in the second half," Vanover said. “And they were kicking the ball to (Claudia) Harrington in the corner for threes. We switched to man because we wanted to take away Sammi (Whiteman) making that pass to Harrington in the corner."
The strategy nearly backfired for Miami East as Haney and Camryn Miller both picked up their fourth fouls in the matter of seconds as Covington closed the gap to 52-45 with 4:50 left on the clock.
After a Miami East timeout, Covington couldn't take advantage of the momentum after Whiteman collided hard with teammate Morgan Kimmel - forcing both players to come up limping.
Miami East was able to take advantage as Maria Staton and Rori Hunley hit open jumpers and Haney had a steal and a layup to take the lead back to double digits and pretty much end matters.
But even in defeat, Meyer was proud of his team’s effort.
"The kids showed a lot of heart," Meyer said. "Give Miami East credit. They came out ready to play. You can't let a player like Morgan Haney score 38 points. It was tough when our two best defenders got in foul trouble and we were having to run the Morgans (Morgan Lowe, Morgan Kimmel) in and out of the game."
But the night belonged to Morgan Haney and Sammi Whiteman as they proved they are elite talents in area basketball. Haney finished with 38 points and Whiteman had 29 but their individual games go way beyond points scored as evident by what they mean to their respective teams.
They both are unselfish players who make those around them better, which makes them fun to watch.
They are the cream of the crop.
Miami East (66)
Morgan Haney 13-9-38, Rori Hunley 3-0-7, Camryn Miller 3-2-9, Maria Staton 3-1-7, Whitley Gross 1-1-3, Cadence Gross 0-2-2, Emily Adkins 0-0-0. Totals: 23-15-66.
Morgan Lowe 1-1-3, Sammi Whiteman 10-7-29, Morgan Kimmel 1-3-5, Claudia Harrington 4-0-12, Lauren Christian 2-2-6, Lillian Hamilton 1-0-2, Makenzee Maschino 0-0-0. Totals: 19-13-57.
3-point field goals — Miami East: Haney (3), Hunley, Miller. Covington: Whiteman (2), Harrington (4).
Score By Quarters
Miami East: 14 - 36 - 46 - 66
Covington: 8 - 19 - 38 - 57
Records: Miami East 14-6 (10-2), Covington 15-3 (8-2).
Reserve score: Miami East 36, Covington 30.