FEBRUARY 11, 2019 - COVINGTON
If Covington coach Jim Meyer was a writer and he could compile a script for a basketball game, that script would play out exactly like the Lady Buccs' 69-28 victory over Troy on Monday.
That's because it was "Senior Night" and Meyer is very close to his four senior; Lauren Christian, Lillian Hamilton, Leah Poling and Sammi Whiteman.
"I couldn't ask for a better night for the seniors," said Meyer, after spending an emotional night with the four seniors on the home floor for the final time Monday night. "Our team came out tonight and played well - no, very well. I'm so excited about heading into the tournament off of this performance."
It was a stark contrast to Covington's previous performance in a double-overtime victory over National Trail last Thursday.
"I had a very uneasy feeling before the Trail game and it showed on the floor," Meyer said. "I knew they were better than their record and I knew we had some girls who were under the weather. I just had a bad feeling heading into that game. But tonight, I had an entirely different feeling coming into this game against Troy. We had a great few days of practice and the girls were focused."
Troy was obviously focused on containing Sammi Whiteman as they mixed in a box-and-one and sometimes threw two defenders at the Lady Buccs' leading scorer.
But that opened things up for freshman Claudia Harrington, who drilled her first three shots from behind the three-point line to give Covington an early lead.
"Claudia is a shooter and she has had a few games where she struggled a bit," Meyer explained. "She started to hesitate pulling the trigger, so I had a talk with her and told her she had to keep shooting. She's a shooter and her role is to shoot when she has an open look. She hit the first one and relaxed and hit two more big ones early in the game."
Which gave Troy more to think about defensively other than shutting down Whiteman.
And Whiteman took advantage as she canned two treys and scored on a runner in the first and then followed with 12 more points in the second quarter to lead Covington to a 38-15 lead at the break.
Covington kept the foot on the gas in the third quarter by outscoring Troy 12-3 to push the advantage to 50-18 with one quarter to play.
This set the stage for a fun fourth quarter - highlighted by a three-pointer by senior post player Lauren Christian.
It was a reward for the dirty work Christian does inside, setting screens, rebounding and giving opponents fits on defense.
"Lauren has always been a physical player, one who likes the contact - setting screens, being physical inside - things like that," Meyer said. "But she has matured lately as a scorer and stepped out tonight and hit a big three. She has emerged as a real leader on this team - consistently in practice speaking out to her teammates and being engaged and focused on the game plan."
Covington rotated younger players on the floor throughout the final frame in order to give the seniors a chance to be recognized for their efforts by the home crowd, but Covington was able to outscore Troy 19-10 over the final eight minutes to finish the game in style.
And although she didn't score any points on the night, senior Leah Poling showcased the type of teammate she is by her selflessness on the floor.
"Leah is one of those kids that has been thrown into the guts of some big games, and she has responded very well," praised Meyer of Poling. "She works very hard in practice and absorbs the game plan. She's a great kid and a great teammate who accepts her role very well."
Lillian Hamilton is another senior who may not light up the scoreboard, but does the little things very well - rebounding, playing defense and being the ultimate team player.
"For what Lil and her family has gone through - obviously with the loss of her father - I'm amazed at her inner strength and how she has been able to fight through that adversity," Meyer said with a lump in his throat. "I'm so proud of her for saying 'Coach, I can play and I'll play hard'. She's a special young lady and I'm just so proud of her - it's beyond words."
Whiteman finished the contest with a game-high 30 points, but Sammi's basketball talent goes way beyond statistics.
A perfect example is the fact that Whiteman had 20 points at the break and very well could have focused on breaking her own school record of 41 points in a game in the second half.
Instead, Whiteman was the ultimate team player by distributing the basketball to her teammates - three times passing up open looks to hit Makenzee Maschino (twice) and Morgan Kimmel (once) under the basket for layups.
"You know, this kid has been the face of our program since I've been here for my second go around," said Meyer. "The younger kids look up to her so much. She's not about her own personal stats. She'll take her points when she can get them, but it's more about winning to her. She does all of the little things to make her team better."
Whiteman is approaching the career scoring record of 1,879 points held by Lynnette Roeth, who was on hand to watch Sammi in action.
"I really hope she breaks it (the record)," Roeth said. "It has stood long enough. What has it been, 27 years? I really hope she breaks that record."
Meyer has had the pleasure of coaching both Lynnette Roeth and Sammi Whiteman.
"I was fortunate to coach Lynnette as a freshman before I went to Troy and now I've been blessed to coach Sammi," said Meyer. "Wow, those are two great players. I only had Lynnette one year and that was an honor, but to be a part of Sammi's career for three years, I feel so blessed."
Yes, tonight was about the seniors as they played arguably their best game of their careers in their final game on the home floor.
Which made it an emotional night for Covington coach Jim Meyer.
"This group has been with me for three years, and I've grown with them and they've grown with me," said Meyer, again with a little crack in his voice. "They are great kids who have matured into leaders. They support each other and demand that support and teamwork from the younger kids. This is a very special group."
With the regular season concluded for Covington, who holds an 18-3 record, the Lady Buccs hope to extend the season late into the post-season tournaments.
And it begins on Saturday at Brookville High School against Tri-County North. The game is scheduled to tip off at 11am.
SCORE BY QUARTERS:
Troy: 8 - 15 - 18 - 28
Covington: 20 - 38 - 50 - 69
Sammi Whiteman - 30
Claudia Harrington - 11
Makenzee Maschino - 11
Morgan Kimmel - 8
Lauren Christian - 5
Josie Crowell - 3
Lillian Hamilton - 1
T. Bass - 7
Macie Taylor - 7
Makenna Taylor - 6
L. Borchers - 2
E. Innes - 2
L. McGraw - 2
C. Huston - 2
Covington: Sammi Whiteman (5), Claudia Harrington (3), Lauren Christian (1), Josie Crowell (1)
Troy: Makenna Taylor (2), Macie Taylor (1)