DECEMBER 29, 2020 - COVINGTON
It wasn't easy, but the end result was very rewarding for a young Covington girls basketball team as they overcame a slow start to defeat Graham 57-42 and capture a third consecutive championship in the Buccaneer Holiday Classic.
"It's awesome for the kids to win this with COVID and everything, not knowing if we were going to be able to play this season," said Covington coach Brandon Studebaker. "It's also awesome for the kids to experience a tournament atmosphere - to play for hardware. It's great."
For their efforts, juniors Claudia Harrington and Claire Fraley were awarded All-Tournament honors and freshman Carlie Besecker was selected as the tournament Most Valuable Player after scoring a total of 47 points in two nights.
After scoring 25 points on Monday in the win over Milton-Union, Besecker tallied a game-high 22 tonight - many coming off of rebounds. The talented freshman teamed with Fraley to dominate the boards, leading to second chance opportunities inside the paint.
But Covington struggled early on as Graham built a 7-0 lead to start the game. It wasn't until a bucket by Claudia Harrington with just over 3:00 left in the first that Covington was able to put points on the board.
"I wasn't expecting to be down 7-0, but we had a tough one last night and we didn't have fresh legs coming into this," Studebaker said. "I sort of expected a slow start, but the kids didn't blink. The kids kept battling and eventually shots started falling."
Shots did start to fall and Covington went on a 10-3 over the remainder of the opening frame that was capped by a Harrington runner at the buzzer.
Covington then took control of the game in the second period as senior Ellie Hedges drilled two huge three-pointers to spark a 26-16 lead at the break. Hedges finished with eight points on the night, but her effort at the defensive end stood out most.
"Ellie is a surprise to everyone," Studebaker praised of his lone senior. "Her work ethic, the way she comes in and works so hard is impressive. She missed some time with COVID quarantines and for her to contribute this way is awesome."
The Lady Buccs pushed their advantage to 44-24 after three periods and then emptied its bench in the final frame to give some of the younger kid an opportunity to play in a tournament atmosphere.
And through it all, there were smiles across the faces of the Covington girls the entire contest.
"These girls are having a lot of fun together," Studebaker said. "It's a group of kids who like to be around each other. It's unfortunate with COVID that they can't be together more often. They are so much fun to coach."
It's obvious there is a dynamic on this team that seems unique. Granted, there is a lot of basketball to be played, but Covington appears to be on track for a special season.
"This is a great group of kids who enjoy playing together," said Studebaker. "I couldn't ask for a better group of kids to coach. They are so much fun to be around."
Covington now 6-2 (4-1 CCC) will host Newton January 7th with a two quarter JV game.
Covington: 10 16 18 13 = 57
Graham: 10 6 8 18 = 42
18-2pt FG, 3-3pt FG (Hedges 2, Anderson 1) 12/17 FT
Carlie Besecker - 22
Claudia Harrington - 13
Ellie Hedges - 8
Gracie Anderson - 8
Claire Fraley - 5
Payton Nicholas - 1
10-2pt FG, 4-3pt FG (Yukon 2, King 2) 10/12 FT
Abby Yukon - 15
Ariel Cupps - 11
Lexi King - 10
Lauren Bailey - 4
Karissa Sanford - 2