By Rob Kiser, Piqua Daily Call
JANUARY 5, 2019 - COVINGTON
The showdown is set.
And the Covington girls basketball team couldn't have picked a better way to head into a game that could well determine the Cross County Conference title.
CCC unbeatens Covington and Tri-Village will meet Thursday at Tri-Village.
Covington will take a 12-1 record overall and 7-0 CCC record into that game, while Tri-Village is 11-1 overall and 6-0 in the CCC, has a home game with Preble Shawnee on Monday.
The Buccs turned in a "complete" team effort from start to finish in a 60-50 win over Arcanum Saturday at Covington High School. Arcanum dropped to 9-5 overall and 5-2 in the CCC with a loss.
"That was our best effort as a team all year," Covington coach Jim Meyer said. "That is the best we have played and Arcanum is a great team."
The "start" was Lauren Christian scoring six of Covington's first eight points, with assists from three different players - assists from Morgan Lowe, Morgan Kimmel and Sammi Whiteman - off an inbounds pass.
"We talked about playing as a team," Meyer said. "We told them to do the things you can do and that is what you saw."
The "finish" was Morgan Kimmel - well, being Morgan Kimmel.
With Covington leading 55-46 and a little over a minute remaining, a Covington pass from the backcourt appeared headed out of bounds.
Somehow, the Covington junior was able to chase the ball down and save the possession. Then, she got an offensive rebound on a missed free throw to keep the possession alive before Whiteman hit two free throws to help put the game away.
"That (chasing the long pass down) is Morgan Kimmel in a nutshell," Meyer said. "That was a huge play. Those are the kind of things Morgan does. She never gives up on a play. She would run through a wall if I asked her to. That is the kind of intensity she plays with."
The in-between was Morgan Lowe.
The Lady Buccs defensive specialist hit three timely 3-pointers in the game to help keep Arcanum at bay.
"Those were big shots by Morgan Lowe," Meyer said. "She is not known as an offensive player. She did a great job when Lauren (Christian) and Lily (Hamilton) weren't in there guarding Taylor Gray."
It took all that - and Whiteman's typical 24-point game, which included 17 in the first half, six points from Makenzee Maschino in the fourth quarter and solid contributions from Hamilton and Claudia Harrington to hold off a young and scrappy Arcanum team that starts three freshman.
Covington led 19-9 after one quarter and 36-21 at halftime, but back-to-back threes by freshman Madelyn Fearon had the Trojans within 46-39 going to the fourth quarter.
Maschino scored the first four points of the fourth quarter and the Covington lead hovered around 10 the rest of the way.
"The freshmen (Makenzee Maschino, Claudia Harrington) are coming on," Meyer said.
While, that was as close as Arcanum could get - freshman Taylor Gray had a double-double with 13 points and rebounds. Fearon had 12 points and seven rebounds and a third freshman Hailey Unger added 11 points - all in the first half.
Kayla O'Danel pulled down eight rebounds and Gracie Garno scored eight points.
"We knew Arcanum was a Jekyll-and-Hyde team," Meyer said. "They struggle to score in stretches, then they have stretches where they can't miss."
Whiteman had seven rebounds to go with her 24 points. Lowe finished with 11 points, Kimmel had eight points and eight rebounds, Christian had eight points and Maschino scored six points.
Covington was 22 of 50 from the floor for 44 percent and 13 of 17 from the line for 76 percent.
Arcanum was 17 of 65 from the floor for 26 percent and nine of 17 from the line for 53 percent.
Arcanun won the battle of the boards 33-31 and both teams had 20 turnovers.
"That was a complete team effort," Meyer said.
And the best possible way to head into the biggest game of the season.
Hailey Unger 4-0-11, Kayla O'Danel 1-0-2, Gracie Garno 2-3-8, Madelyn Fearon 4-1-12, Taylor Gray 5-3-13, Camille Pohl 1-2-4. Totals: 17-9-50.
Morgan Lowe 4-0-11, Sammi Whiteman 7-10-24, Morgan Kimmel 4-0-8, Claudia Harrington 0-0-0, Lauren Christian 4-0-8, Lillian Hamilton 1-1-3, Makenzee Maschino 2-2-6. Totals: 22-13-60.
3-point field goals — Arcanum: Unger (3), Garno, Fearon (3). Covington: Lowe (3).
Score By Quarters
Arcanum - 9 - 21 - 39 - 50
Covington - 19 - 36 - 46 - 60
Records: Arcanum 9-5 (5-2), Covington 12-1 (7-0)