Getting key contributions from just about everyone, Covington rallied to win its first tournament game under Matt Pond.
PIQUA – Saturday’s Covington-Botkins sectional tournament game was not the story of two halves.
It was the story of two quarters.
After the Trojans used a 19-11 advantage in the third quarter to take a 35-32 lead, the Buccs held Botkins without a field goal in the fourth quarter and hit big shot after big shot to secure a 55-46 win.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our kids,” beamed Covington head coach Matt Pond. “They did what they have done all year, which is play together and compete. They have made their coaches and community proud all season.”
It’s the Buccs first post-season success under Pond, who is in his fourth year, and sends them into the sectional semi-finals Wednesday night against top seeded Jackson Center. The Tigers clobbered Ansonia 48-23 on Saturday.
Botkins hit just 7 of 21 shots in the first half and Covington led 21-16 behind junior Trevor Miller’s 10 points.
The Trojans were a different team in the third quarter, consistently getting the ball inside to 6-7 senior Chad Bergman. He responded with 7 points in the period, and Botkins had a three point lead to protect in the fourth quarter.
They couldn’t do it.
The Buccs tied the game at 38 and again at 40. Then the biggest shot of the night came from the Buccs’ Jordan Maschino. The only senior on the team drilled a three from the left corner to ignite an 8-0 Covington run, and the Buccs never trailed again.
In true family fashion, Maschino credited a teammate.
“It came off of Nathan Blei’s pass. We reversed the basketball and he found me open. It felt good to hit that shot for my team.”
The heroes were many for Covington on this night. Miller scored 19 before fouling out with 2:25 to play. Maschino had 6 of his 12 points in the final period, and Nathan Blei scored all 7 of his points in the fourth.
“The great thing about this group is that they are so unselfish,” explained Pond. “We have been preaching since we have been here to share the basketball and not really care who gets the credit. They did that tonight. They found each other in crunch time. Maschino is our only senior, and he came out in the second half and hit some really big shots for us.
“We played through a lot of adversity. We gave up the lead going into the fourth quarter, but the kids have proven for 23 games now that they are going to kick and scrape and claw for everything they get. We say “family” after every break, and they believe it. It’s something that we are lucky to be a part of.”
Maschino said that family concept has been a big part of the Buccs season.
“Sometimes early in the game, we don’t play together. We go in at halftime and get yelled at a little bit (which got a big laugh from his coach standing nearby) and we come out in the second half and play much more together.”
At the other end of the floor, Botkins was 11 of 15 at the line in the fourth quarter, but missed all 12 of its shots from the floor to end the season at 8-15.
“Bergman was a load, and we knew they were going to go to him,” Pond admitted. “We made a little tweak defensively that the kids actually brought up and the kids just dug in and found a way to compete. It’s been the story of our season. Just find a way.”
Bergman ended his career with a team high 19 for the Trojans, while Erik Greve finished with 15, 11 in the second half.
Covington was 11 of 17 from the floor in the second half, and finished the night 21 of 41 for 51%. Botkins was 14 of 44 from the floor for 32%. The Trojans mis-fired on all 11 three point attempts, while Covington was 4 of 10 from the arc.
Botkins did have an advantage at the line, hitting 18 of 25 for 72%. The Buccs were just 9 of 18 from the stripe for 50%. Covington out-rebounded the Trojans 28-22 and had 14 turnovers to the Trojans 10.
“This is a huge, huge win for our program,” agreed Pond. “We had a great crowd tonight and we’ve got little kids all around. We want those kids to look at our high school players as role models, and they have done a great job of making the community proud. We just want all those little Buccaneers to want to be part of our program. It is great to see their hard work rewarded with a tournament win. To have gone through everything we have and to put things together is just great for our program.”
Pond is a Covington alum and is very aware of the tradition of Covington basketball.
“I have the utmost respect for Roger Craft (Pond’s predecessor as coach and now athletic director). He was an important part of me coming here. Getting the staff that we have here, and getting the things we wanted to get done, it has been one of the most rewarding periods of my career. It’s much more than the record. It’s being with these kids every day. They leave everything they have on the floor, and that makes my job so much easier.”
The Buccaneers and Tigers will play Wednesday night in the second game of the lower bracket semifinals. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30pm.