COVINGTON, Ind. – Covington wanted to honor their two most recent boys’ regional basketball championship teams last Thursday, but the weather did not cooperate and the game with Fountain Central was postponed.
On Tuesday, the school honored the 1959-60 team by playing in old-style “throwback” jerseys in the middle school gym or what most townsfolk call “the old gym.”
Fountain Central (9-11, 1-4 WRC) was the opponent and they and their hosts played the first quarter in a decidedly old-school fashion.
Phil Shabi, the Mustang head coach knew that Covington (13-5, 4-1) wanted a fast-paced game so he decided to slow things down, taking as much as 90 seconds on a single possession.
“We knew we wanted to limit the number of possession they had,” he explained, “but that has the drawback of making every possession of more value.”
It took over a minute before anyone scored and that was a three-pointer by Logan Pinkerton for Covington, but then it was another three minutes before the Mustangs answered with a lay-up by Jake Smith.
Two minutes later, the teams traded baskets and then Caleb Ellmore hit a basket with a minute left for a 7-4 score that carried through into the second quarter.
“We started [strongly] on defense,” Adam Ballard, the Covington coach said. We had great focus on that end in the first quarter.”
The second period started much as had the first with scoring by Covington every minute or so, but those baskets came off steals or other Fountain Central turnovers.
Suddenly the pace of the game changed as the Trojans began to run – their defense creating their offense.
Fountain Central kept attacking as they had in the first period, but this time they seemed to run into a wall of yellow jerseys every time they closed in on the basket.
Covington scored 20 points in the first five minutes of the quarter against none for the Mustangs for a 27-4 score.
Mason Larkin ended the six-and-a-half minute drought with a three-pointer, but the Trojans still ended up increasing their lead.
Fountain Central got a pair of baskets from Cole Kirkpatrick and Carson Eberly, but the hosts got baskets from Ellmore, Savion Waddell and a trey from Daniel Keller for a 34-11 halftime score.
“We missed some shots [in the second quarter] and they got some turnovers which changed the game,” Shabi said. “If we hit a couple of those, maybe it’s a different game.”
Covington opened the second half with a three-pointer by Pinkerton and later added three treys by Alan Karrfalt who would end the night with 12 points, all on three-pointers.
Fountain Central got treys from Eberly and Larkin but the third period ended up with a Trojan edge 25-11 for a 59-22 score.
The final quarter saw the Mustangs open the period with a pair of baskets, one by Smith and the other by Kirkpatrick, only to see Karrfalt hit his fourth trey.
Both teams played reserves for much of the final period with the only points in the quarter for the Trojans being that Karrfalt trey while the Mustangs were scoring a dozen for a 62-34 final score.
Ballard said his team upped their defensive pressure starting in the second quarter and forced turnovers – much as Shabi noted – that led to baskets.
“When our defense is creating offense for us,” he explained, “that’s when we’re playing our best.”
Offensively Ballard liked the balance shown by his team in scoring as “no one forced shots” but rather the baskets came out of the flow of the game.
Pinkerton led the team with 15 points, Karrfalt had 12 and three others had eight or more.
“When we have that many guys score, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us,” Ballard said, “but, and I know it’s February, but we’re still growing and learning what we have to do to win. We want to do better than we did tonight.”