Slow start dooms Covington boys against Preble Shawnee

CLAYTON — Covington opened up the sectional tournament facing #2 seed Preble Shawnee at Northmont High School on Thursday hoping to play its best basketball of the season.

Unfortunately, the Buccaneers couldn’t get shots to fall in the first half, while it seemed Preble Shawnee couldn’t miss. The result was a 40-8 halftime deficit the Buccaneers couldn’t overcome in a 65-35 loss that ends their season with a 7-16 record.

But it sure wasn’t due to a lack of effort on Covington’s part.

The Buccaneers opened the contest with a quick bucket by Wes Gooding from the baseline and the defensive pressure applied at the other end of the floor held Preble Shawnee scoreless throughout the first two minutes of the contest.

But Shawnee quickly heated up and before you could blink the Arrows had surged to a 20-0 run before a bucket by Tyler Alexander ended the run in the final 30 seconds of the opening frame.

Shawnee’s Dylan Hatmaker followed with a laying at the buzzer to push the margin to 22-4 after one.

The second period was much of the same as Covington generated open looks by executing the offense, but just couldn’t get shots to fall. The Buccaneers generated just two field goals in the frame on buckets by Britton Miller and Jaden Barhorst, while Shawnee continued its hot shooting stroke for 18 points in the period to push the advantage to 40-8 at the break.

In all, Preble Shawnee shot 55 percent from the floor, while Covington made just 22 percent of its shots.

And sparking Shawnee’s success was the best player Covington has seen all year in Mason Shrout. The 6’4” freshman was head and shoulders the best player on the floor as he controlled the tempo with his amazing ball handling skills. Covington did its best to contain the freshman phenom, but Shrout scored a game-high 15 points and continually set his teammates up for easy buckets when the Buccaneer defense closed in on him.

Trailing 40-8 at the half, many teams would pack it in, but Covington continued to play hard throughout.

And the effort produce results as shots started to fall in the third. Owen Boehringer and Wes Gooding each connected on three-pointers, while Jake Hamilton hit on three buckets – one coming on a two-handed slam off of a steal.

But with a running clock for much of the second half, Covington just couldn’t chip away at the lead.

Leading 56-20 with one quarter to play, Preble Shawnee pulled its starters and turned the game over to younger players.

Covington, understanding the end result, also turned the game over to its bench. This provided the highlight of the night as senior Avery Rench saw his first action of the season in the waning moments.

Rench, who was forced to sit out all year due to a leg injury, removed the boot on his leg and entered the game at the offensive end for Covington. The Buccaneers set up the offense and rotated the ball to Rench’s side of the court, where the senior drilled a three-pointer from in front of the Covington bench.

Covington coach Matt Gibbins immediately called a timeout as the Buccaneer faithful rose to their feet to give Rench a standing ovation.

From there, the clock continued to tick away on Covington’s season as the final buzzer sounded with the Buccs on the short end of a 65-35 score.