It was just what Lehman girls basketball coach Craig Hall had been waiting to see and what Covington coach Craig Maschino has seen far too often.
In the opening game of the Buckeye Insurance Group Holiday Classic, Lehman rallied from a 26-12 defcit late in the first half to pull out a 40-35 victory over Covington.
Lehman will play Russia in the championship game at 7 p.m. tonight, while Covington will play Piqua in the consolation game at 4 p.m.
“Our defense is the key to our team and it was again tonight,” Hall said. “We got a lot start. I know we have five seniors, but they don’t have a lot of experience. We are starting to jell. Things came together for us tonight.”
For Covington, it was the fifth time in nine games, the Lady Buccs had loss by five points or less.
“We are close,” Maschino said. “We have to find a way to finish these games. What happened tonight is something that has happened in about seven other games.”
Brooke Jones got two big baskets late in first half to close the Lehman deficit to 26-16.
And while Lehman turned the ball over on three of its first four possessions in the second half, the Cavaliers defense limited Covington to two second half points in 11:33, before Carly Shell broke the ice with a three from the corner.
But, by that time Lehman had played itself back into the game, trailing just 31-27.
“We left them in the game and they took advantage of it,” Maschino said. “We weren’t taking good shots like we were in the first half.”
Julia Harrelson, who had five points in the third quarter, answered with basket and Jordi Emrick scored to tie it at 31 with 3:57 remaining in the game.
Points came hard to come by at that point, with both teams missing from the line.
Ava Schmitz hit one of two free throws with 2:05 remaining to make it 32-31 and with 1:20 to go Allison Hall grabbed a rebound of shot that was well short and put it back in to make it 34-31.
“I told the kids, there were a lot of different moments down the stretch that could be called game-changing moments,” Hall said.
Brooke Gostomsky hit two free throws to get Covington within 34-33 with 45 seconds to go, but Schmitz answered with a breakaway layup seven seconds later.
Cassidy Cain would score for Covington to make it 36-35, but Harrelson and Schmitz calmly hit four straight free throws to ice the victory.
“It is that way in practice,” Hall said. “We struggle at the line, but when we need to make them, we do.”
Maschino could only think about what could have been.
“We were able to score at the end, but then we had to foul them,” he said. “The Harrelson girl is a nice player and we had trouble stopping the ball when she had it.”
With Cain scoring 11 points in the opening half and Shell adding five in the first quarter off the bench, Covington had led 26-12.
“Sometimes, we play like one of the best basketball teams around,” Maschino said. “We have to find a way to be more consistent.”
Covington had led 13-3, before Lehman scored nine in a row, only to see the Lady Buccs score 12 in a row.
But, it was a different story after that.
“I told the girls it was game of streaks,” Hall said. “We would go on a run and then they would go on a run. The second half was probably the best defense we have played all year.”
Harrelson had 18 points to lead Lehman, while Cain paced the Lady Buccs with 13.
Arianna Richards 1-0-2, Brooke Gostomsky 2-2-6, Heidi Cron 1-2-4, Cassidy Cain 4-5-13, Morgan McReynolds 0-0-0, Carly Shell 3-0-8, Lexi Long 1-0-2. Totals: 12-9-35.
Ava Schmitz 1-5-7, Julia Harrelson 6-6-18, Jordi Emrick 1-0-2, Brooke Jones 4-0-8, Kassie Lee 0-1-1, Jenna Kroneberger 1-0-2, Madeline Franklin 0-0-0, Allison Hall 1-0-2, Sara Fuller 0-0-0, Katie Heckman 0-0-0. Totals: 14-12-40.
3-point field goals — Covington: Shell (2).
Score By Quarters
Covington 13 26 28 35
Lehman5 16 25 40
Records: Lehman 2-6, Covington 2-7.
Reserve score: Lehman 26, Covington 20.