COVINGTON – Mississinawa Valley finished the regular season by hanging on to defeat Covington 57-54 in a Cross County Conference boys basketball game Friday night.
The victory gave the Blackhawks three wins in their final four games and some momentum heading into their first round Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament game against Jackson Center.
“We needed this game,” Mississinawa Valley coach Tim Barga said. “Going into tournament we’ve got Jackson Center. We know if we can’t beat a team like this we’re not going to have a chance against them.”
Mississinawa had some struggles early on against Covington as the Buccaneers, who were celebrating their senior night, began the game on an 11-4 run. The Blackhawks scored the final 4 points of the opening period but trailed 11-8.
Down 16-10 midway through the second quarter, Mississinawa Valley started to find its groove. Two 3-pointers by DJ Howell and Andrew Johns tied the game then with less than 30 seconds remaining in the half Johns scored again to put the Blackhawks up 18-16 entering halftime.
“We missed a few guys cutting to the basket, easy shots. We missed a couple easy shots,” Barga said of his team’s first half performance. “So we felt like we were better than what they were overall.”
Covington scored first in the second half to regain the lead, but then Mississinawa Valley took off. The Blackhawks went on a 10-0 run with points from Howell, Ethan Bowman and Darin Miller to go up 28-18.
Mississinawa ended up outscoring Covington 24-10 in the third quarter to lead by 16 points, 42-26.
“We were running some plays and stuff,” Barga said. “We were getting open layups, and that’s off our offense. And that right there is what helped us out a lot. Earlier in the season we weren’t even running an offense a lot of times, and that’s the reason we wasn’t scoring. Now we’re starting to run offenses, and the kids are starting to understand if we run an offense, we’re going to score.”
In the fourth quarter Covington started to heat up. The Buccs drained six 3-pointers in the period as they reduced their deficit to single digits.
“It’s hard to stop them 3-pointers that they were putting up there toward the end of the game,” Barga said. “They were hitting them.”
While Covington was charging back into the game, Mississinawa Valley didn’t go itself any favors as the Blackhawks missed nine of their final 17 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter – at one point missing six in a row.
“That was going to be a killer,” Barga said of his team’s fourth quarter free throw shooting. “I try to tell kids, you know, foul shots will win you or lose you games. If we would have missed those last two or three it could have went the other way. It had to get in their heads; there’s no doubt about it. It was pressure time down there in the last minute, minute and a half; there’s no doubt. Hopefully they can put that behind them and next game go out there and start off the way we started out the third quarter.”
Covington got close but was unable to overtake Mississinawa Valley. The Buccaneers drained a 3-pointer moments before the final buzzer sounded, and the Blackhawks hung on for a 3-point victory, 57-54.
Bowman led Mississinawa Valley with 14 points on Friday. Also for the Blackhawks, Howell scored 13 points, Johns scored 12, Darin Miller scored 6, Trent Perkins scored 6, Matt Slob scored 4, and Kyler Guillozet scored 2.
Nathan Blei led Covington with a game-high 16 points. Also for the Buccs, Trevor Miller scored 14 points, Jayce Pond scored 10, Jett Murphy scored 8, Kenny Atkinson scored 4, and Zach Parrett scored 2.
Mississinawa Valley finished the regular season with an 8-14 overall record and 4-8 mark in the CCC. Covington fell to 11-10 overall and 7-5 in the CCC.
Mississinawa Valley will return to action when it takes on Jackson Center at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at Piqua in the first round of the OHSAA tournament.
“They’ve got a really good team,” Barga said. “They’ve really got a lot of patience. They slow the ball down a lot. I think they average about 45 points a game, and that’s about what we’re averaging so we’ve got to come out and play them just like we played tonight.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.