UNION CITY — Covington coach Matt Pond has been stressing all season how his team would eventually be rewarded for their effort and competitive desire — even when the Buccaneers were outgunned in regards to big-game experience.
Pond’s understanding of kids giving every ounce of their individual and collective effort elevates their abilities on and off the court and eventually leads to success — even when doubts may enter in the equation. This was on display Friday night as the Buccaneers put together their best outing of the season in a 79-60 win over Mississinawa Valley.
“Wow, our kids played hard,” said a very pleased Buccaneer coach. “Effort has been the staple of this team all season and as long as we give that kind of effort there’s no complaints, win or lose.”
It was all about effort as Covington did the little things right - battling for rebounds and loose balls.
“The big thing was the 50-50 balls, the loose balls that we were able to come up with,” continued Pond. “Those were the things I look at as an indication as to how hard our kids played tonight.”
Still, Covington made inexperienced mistakes, but was able to make up for it with attitude and effort. This was never more evident by the effort given by freshman Nathan Blei to overcome a mistake.
“Look at Blei,” said Pond. “One possession there in the third quarter he turns the ball over and hustles down the floor to take a charge. That’s a freshman laying’ it on the line tonight.”
And Blei was one of an entire Buccaneer roster to lay it on the line as Andre Benedict and Tyler Henry both found themselves in foul trouble. Sophomore Jordan Maschino came in off the bench and gave the Buccaneers a huge lift with a career-high 18 points.
“I was a little concerned when Andre (Benedict) and Tyler (Henry) picked up their third and fourth fouls,” Pond explained. “But our younger kids stepped up. Maschino came off the bench and gave us a big lift.”
The early going was back-and-forth as Covington took a 9-4 lead and Mississinawa Valley caught fire to outscore the Buccs 14-7 over the remainder of the first quarter.
But a pair of treys by Blei and Austin Lefeld sparked Covington to a big second quarter that led to a 40-34 Buccaneer lead at the break.
Tyler Henry and Andre Benedict made some big plays driving to the basket in the third to spark another Covington run, but found themselves on the bench in foul trouble with the Buccs holding a 56-47 lead to start the fourth quarter.
And big treys by Carson Stump and Jacob Breymier to start the fourth quarter gave Mississinawa Valley a spark as the Covington lead eventually dwindled to six points midway through the frame.
But in the process, Mississinawa Valley’s leading scorer Dane Blumenstock fouled out at the 3:53 mark and Covington took advantage by closing out strong for the 19-point win.
“The difference in the fourth quarter was we were able to handle their press,” Pond said. “We had a couple of five second calls, but other than that we handled their pressure and were able to get to the rim.”
Which capped a perfect night for the Buccs as the freshman team won and the junior varsity squad came from behind for a big win.
“I want to credit our younger kids for setting the table tonight,” closed Pond. “Our JV’s were down by like 15 points and outscored them 32-4 in the fourth quarter to get a big win. We (the varsity) were lined up in the hallway watching that and that got our kids going.”
And the varsity kids capped the evening with a stellar performance as five players scored in double figures.
Jordan Maschino and Tyler Henry both had 18 points, while Andre Benedict had 14, Austin Lefeld had 11 and Nathan Blei scored 10.
The Buccs shot a season-high 60 percent from the floor, making 28 of 47 field goal attempts and 47 percent from behind the arc (9-for-19). Covington was also 14 of 21 from the line for 67 percent and out-rebounded Mississinawa Valley 33-20.
It all led to a huge win for Covington, and a reward for the effort and competitive desire the Buccaneers have displayed all season,