The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

December 5, 2012

Avery Chezem steals the show

BY AARON PATTERSON
Commercial-News

COVINGTON, Ind. —  Basketball runs in the Chezem family, so it isn’t surprising that Covington sophomore Avery Chezem has made an impact on the Trojans’ girls’ basketball team early in her career.

With her dad, Kent Chezem, spending the last nine years as coach of the Trojans’ boys basketball team (and 19 years overall as a head coach), Avery Chezem has never known any different. She’s naturally drawn to basketball. And on Tuesday in a non-conference border battle against the Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils, it seemed almost as if the ball was drawn to her in a dominant performance that left the Blue Devils with questions, and the Trojans with a 58-41 win.

“We are versatile with her because she plays a great point (guard),” first year Covington coach Jeff McCoy said. “We had her at the two (guard) at the beginning of the season. Being a new coach, I did watch film from last year and I thought the two was going to be the best spot for her and getting off good shots. But, Avery works better with the ball in her hand. So when we put the ball in her hand, good things happen. She makes good decisions.”

Even when Chezem was on defense, she found ways to get the ball in her hands. The sophomore guard finished with game highs in points (18), assists (6) and steals (10), and helped lead a Trojans attack that the Blue Devils could find no answer for.

Covington led Bismarck-Henning 20-4 after the first quarter, and ultimately held its largest lead of the game at 29 points after three quarters. The Trojans forced the Blue Devils into 18 first-half turnovers, and a total of 29 in the game (including 18 on steals and another 10 on traveling violations) which were converted to 32 points.

“We’ve been working on getting in a position where we can all steal the ball and looking for where the ball is going to go, anticipating the pass,” Chezem said. “We’ve been working on that a lot in practice. That was one of our keys going into the game.”

Chezem scored 12 of her points immediately following turnovers, and senior Aliah Larsen scored eight of her 12 off turnovers. Sophomores Kendra Wallace (three assists, three steals) and Andi Taylor (five rebounds) also scored 11 points each for the Trojans.

While Chezem and the Trojans (5-3 overall) earned the respect of Bismarck-Henning coach Mike Stephens, the performance was uncharacteristic of the Blue Devils (2-6), and left him with few answers.

“I think Covington is a really solid ball club, but normally when you’re facing a zone, you wouldn’t think you would turn the ball over 18 times in the first half,” Stephens said. “We were very careless with the ball. We played with absolutely no energy in the first quarter, which I’m not sure I’ve ever had a team play as poorly as this team played in the first quarter.”

Bismarck-Henning senior forward Abby Bergman went down less than two minutes into the contest with a hand injury and never returned. Bergman, one of only two seniors on the roster, was coming off a 21-point performance in Monday’s loss to Schlarman Academy. Stephens credited senior guard Lexi Ballard for leading the team through the difficult performance.

“If you were in the huddle and knew how flat we really were, I thought there was a chance we were going to play the entire game at that level, which would have been an absolute disaster,” Stephens said. “I think her leadership prevented us from doing that. I do feel like we competed better as the night went on. I think Covington is a really well-coached team. They did some really nice things.”

And the Trojans hope to continue doing nice things. Despite finishing a stretch that had Covington playing four games in seven days, the Trojans played with the intensity of a team with fresh legs. While they might be glad the stretch is over, the Trojans are perhaps more pleased with their improved play. Tuesday’s win marked Covington’s fifth of the season which surpasses the combined win total from the last three seasons.

McCoy believes the turnaround began during the Trojans’ 43-38 win over Faith Christian on November 27.

“I think just getting to know each other better and coming together as a team, and the bonding of the team (has led to success),” Chezem said. “Now that we know where everybody can play and what everybody can do, it’s easier to get the ball to those places.

“I’ve really been hoping for a winning season,” she continued. “I know a lot of the girls have. We’ve gotten a lot better, obviously, and we’re all hoping to win Bi-County now. That’s a goal of ours. It’s going to be really tough. There’s a lot of pressure on us, but we’re going to come back in and keep working really hard until then.”

Covington is scheduled to host South Vermillion on Tuesday and Turkey Run December 13 prior to the Bi-County Tournament, while Bismarck-Henning will be in Hoopeston on Thursday taking on the Cornjerkers.