BY ROB WITZEL
Coming into Saturday night, the Schlarman Hilltoppers faced an uphill battle.
Their lineup was plagued with injuries all week and they were hosting a team that beat them last year 55-39. However, the Hilltoppers overcame their obstacles as they have all year. With high energy, high intensity and team-first basketball the Toppers took down the Covington Trojans 47-32
“This week’s been a challenge,” Schlarman Head Coach Gary Tidwell said. “Michael Simmons just came off of a concussion, and Andrew Kelly turned his ankle. And they both missed a lot of practice. With all that had happened this week, we just have to keep the intensity going and keep on getting better.”
For Covington, they left the court with a bad taste in their mouth and coach Kent Chezem felt a better effort could have been given.
“We definitely didn’t give our best effort,” Chezem said “Mentally we were not focused when the game started. I give credit to Schlarman, those kids played extremely hard. They were a lot than us tonight and really took it to us. I’m disappointed because I felt that Friday night we played really well (on the road against Southmont). We didn’t come in here with the same kind of attitude.”
Both teams struggled offensively in the opening quarter and put up their lowest scoring quarter first. Schlarman put up just eight points while Covington gathered five, three of which came from the free throw line.
In the second quarter, Covington would take a 13-12 lead on an Alex Frechette free throw. This was the first but also the last time the Trojans would lead. After the lone lead change, Schlarman Academy went on a 7-3 run to close the half with a 19-16 lead.
In the third quarter things started to click for the Toppers.
“We started gelling in the second half,” Senior Austin Calhoun said. “We started off slow but as the game progressed we got a feel for how they played and how we should play against them. That’s not to say we changed up our game plan though, we played smarter.”
“We listened to what coach said,” Michael Simmons added. “We came out and turned up the intensity.”
The Hilltoppers started the third quarter with a 6-2 run, Covington fought back with a 5-0 run before Schlarman would finish that quarter with four unanswered points.
The fourth quarter is where Schlarman really started to separate themselves from Covington. Playing from behind, many fouls were forced but Schlarman hit several of their free throws and came away with the win.
While it’s just one of their 14 wins, this one late in the season has a little extra value than the previous 13.
“We’re just trying to build momentum heading into the postseason,” Calhoun said. “Coach told us that we needed to start making signature wins and making statements. This is definitely a signature win with how bad we lost to them last year.”
Three Schlarman players would finish with double-digit scoring. Calhoun led with 14 while Simmons and Junior Chris Kuchefski each had 12. Travis Coleman led Covington with 7 points.
Covington will get their chance to bounce back Friday as they host North Vermillion while Schlarman looks to get another signature win as they travel to Westville on Tuesday.