By Ben Robinson
BROOKVILLE — For the second straight year the Covington Lady Buccs’ season came to an unceremonious end against Southeastern in the sectional tournament at Brookville High School.
And much like last year’s defeat, it was Covington’s inability to score in the fourth quarter that spelled ultimate doom.
Leading 28-24 heading into the final frame, the Lady Buccs could only manage four points the rest of the way as Southeastern smothered Covington’s leading scorer Samantha Whiteman, who had a team-high 15 points through the first three quarters.
Meanwhile, Southeastern senior point guard Lexi Perry score eight of her game-high 16 points in the final frame – a near duplicate of her 15-point effort that helped end Covington’s season a year ago.
” I always talk about three crucial segments of the game,” Covington girls basketball coach Craig Maschino said. “The first three minutes of the game are critical, the first three minutes of the second half (third quarter) are just as critical, and the last three minutes of the game are critical.”
Southeastern stormed out to an 8-0 lead as the Lady Buccs turned the ball over on their first five possessions of the game.
“I also talk about basketball being a game of runs, a game of momentum swings,” Maschino said. “We started out in a 0-8 hole early.”
Finally, Samantha Whiteman broke the ice for Covington with a trey and then Carly Shell followed with another trey. Another bucket by Whiteman on a drive to the basket tied the game at 8-8 before Southeastern responded with a trey of its own.
Whiteman the converted on one of two free throws to make cut the Covington deficit to 11-9 after one.
In a game that featured two stingy defenses, neither team could mount a consistent offense through the remainder of the game as Southeastern clung to a 19-18 lead at the break.
Covington opened the second half with an 8-2 run to take a 26-21 lead, but a Lexi Perry trey closed the gap back to two points before Shell pushed the Lady Buccs’ lead to 28-24 with a ten-foot jumper at the buzzer from the baseline.
“We made a small adjustment at the defensive end, the girls kept their composure and we got back in the game at the end of the first quarter,” Maschino said. “We won the second quarter to go into the half down one. We came out of the half and momentum stayed on our side as we took a four point lead into the fourth quarter. To this point we had been getting the big stop defensively when we needed it or getting that big score when needed.”
Both teams traded buckets to start the fourth, but Southeastern connected on a huge trey with 4:34 left to spark a 10-2 run to end the game.
Covington’s final bucket came with 1:06 left from Shell.
“In the fourth quarter, momentum shifted to Southeastern and we didn’t get that big stop or that big bucket,” Maschino said. “We had a four costly turnovers in the last two minutes. The difference in the game, the turnover margin. We knew coming in that we needed to take care of the ball.
“We needed to value every possession. We had 7 turnovers in the first quarter and 5 in the fourth quarter. That’s 12 of our 14 turnovers, to start the game and to finish the game. We couldn’t get that one last run, that one last momentum swing.”
Whiteman had 15 points for Covington, while Brooke Gostomsky had seven points and nine rebounds and Carly Shell also scored seven points.
Perry had 16 points for Southeastern, Leslie Flores added 11 and Maddie McKee scored eight.
“I want acknowledge the effort and execution at the defensive end tonight,” Maschino said. “Southeastern can score. They can score a lot of points. To hold them to 36 is a credit to the way our girls play defense. In a defensive game at this stage in the season, it’s going to be about who makes fewer mistakes. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t us tonight.
“Give credit to Southeastern. They play tough at the defensive end. They made it difficult for us to get shots off. We definitely didn’t shoot the ball enough, and we didn’t shoot the ball well enough when we did shoot.”
The loss ends Covington’s season at 15-9 as the careers of seniors Gostomsky, Arianna Richards, Shell, Julianna Yingst and Jessie Crowell come to a close.
“This is a tough one,” Maschino said. “Maybe the toughest one yet. I have been with this senior group for six or seven years now. It’s tough to end on this note. But, I’m so very proud of them. They have showed up every day for quite a few years and gotten after it. They have bought in, gave all they had and made it a fun ride while we had it.”
Southeastern advances to play Miami Valley in the sectional championship game Saturday.