BY GREG FLINT
CAYUGA, Ind. —
High school basketball games in Indiana are 32 minutes long, but the sectional contest between local rivals, the Attica Red Ramblers and the Covington Trojans, took only a dozen to decide.
In that opening span of the game, the Trojans built an 18-point lead and never looked back in a 64-47 win in Friday’s sectional semifinal.
The Ramblers made a couple of small runs and actually outscored the victors across the final 20 minutes, but the early Covington run was more than they could overcome.
As is usually the case in sectional games, the contest got off to a slow start as each team tried to decide what would work and what would not with neither wanting to make an early mistake.
Jordan Ahrens scored the first basket for Covington, but Attica’s Kenny Little came back to tie the game.
Ahrens came back with a 3-point play that actually gave the Trojans a lead they would never lose, but at the time, it was just flow of the game as Bryce Cooper answered with a jumper.
The points by Cooper would be the last for Attica in the remainder of the first quarter, but Covington would add ten more on baskets by Ahrens and Jacob Foley and treys by Ahrens and Chandler Spring to go up 15-4 at the end of the period.
“We got some shots but they didn’t go in,” said Attica head coach Chuck Hutchins. “We always struggle with Covington’s length on defense and they forced us to alter our shots just enough that we missed.”
Keetin Arnold stopped the Trojan run momentarily as he hit a lay-up to open the second quarter, but that and a free throw by Cooper would be the only points in the next four minutes for the Ramblers.
Covington countered with a runner by Spring, two free throws by Travis Coleman and a pair of treys by Spring that made the score 25-7 — an 18-point margin with only 12 minutes played.
Attica would not give up and the trio of Arnold, Cooper and Little went on a small run in the next two minutes to pull their team within 12, but the Trojans then ran off eight in a row to raise their lead to 20.
Cooper and Little scored the final points of the quarter, but the Ramblers trailed 33-17 at intermission.
Covington coach Kent Chezem credited both the offense and defense played by his team for the early lead.
“We played well early and we really shot well,” he explained. “We haven’t done that recently. And our defense was pretty good. We tried to stop Cooper, but he’ll always get points.”
Cooper did lead his team with 15 points, but he had to earn them as the Trojans doubled him every time he drove into the paint.
They also found the range from the outside again as Ahrens and Spring each drilled a trey in the third quarter.
Attica continued to fight and Jordan Capps came through later in the quarter, but the Covington kept their 20-point lead, 50-30 after three periods.
The Trojans spread the floor slightly in the fourth period and that paid off with baskets for Gage Hegg, who repeatedly got free under the basket with several different teammates feeding him the ball.
The Ramblers finally found their 3-point shooting eyes in the final quarter as Austin Smyth and Cooper each hit one, but so did Craig Root for the Trojans.
Hutchins brought in his seniors for the final moments of the game and it ended with the final score of 64-47.
“We had our second consecutive winning season in a row,” said Hutchins. “We haven’t done that since the state championship 12 or 13 years ago.”
He spoke of his seniors saying, “They were great fun to coach. They were a good group of kids who were smart on and off the court and are great representatives of their school.”
Spring had 20 points to lead Covington while Ahrens had 13, Coleman had eight and Alex Frechette and James Foley each had seven.
With the win, Covington faces Rockville in the sectional final.
Chezem described how he expected his team to play in that contest.
“We’re going in loose,” he said. “We’ve got nothing to lose. These kids are looking forward to playing.”
Greg Flint is a freelance writer/photographer for the Commercial-News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org