PIQUA — Lehman Catholic lost on a last-second shot to Covington at Piqua’s Garbry Gymnasium during the WPTW Holiday Classic on Dec. 30. The loss was one of the team’s low points during regular season according to coach Tim Gleason.
Lehman didn’t waste another opportunity to beat Covington in Piqua — and had one of its season high points as a result.
The Cavaliers beat Covington 54-44 in a Division IV sectional quarterfinal on Friday to advance to a second-round game against Russia next Tuesday at Piqua.
Unlike December’s matchup, the Buccs (5-19) struggled to shoot and Lehman (9-14) dominated rebounding-wise. Covington shot 38 percent from the floor in December’s matchup and shot 27 percent (18 for 67) on Friday. Lehman outrebounded Covington 41-30 on Friday and had a 30-26 advantage in December.
“We had played Piqua tremendously the night before that first game (against Covington), even though it was a (62-53) loss” Gleason said. “We have found as this season has unfolded that when we play back-to-back games, we are substantially less effective the second night. As coaches, we’re a little baffled by it. They’re very focused the first night and play really well, but when we play that second night, we’re just not the same team.
“… The nice thing about this tournament is we don’t ever play back-to-back games. So every game, we get to make that game our focus. I think that helps these kids.”
Covington briefly took the lead late in the second quarter before Lehman scored the last two baskets to take a three-point halftime lead. The Cavaliers kept the run going at the start of the third quarter to take control.
Preston Rodgers hit a basket and Kameron Lee made a jumper for Lehman in the first two minutes of the third quarter to put the Cavaliers up 28-21. Zach Parrett made a basket for Covington with 4:33 left to cut the lead to five, but Rodgers added a basket 10 seconds later and then made a put-back with 3:34 left to put Lehman ahead 32-23.
Rodgers, a senior forward, made a basket in the paint with 7:15 left in the fourth to give the Cavaliers a 10-point lead. Lehman’s lead grew to 13 before Covington used a late 7-0 run to narrow the gap to six. Lee made four free throws to help the Cavaliers secure the win.
Lee, a senior forward, led Lehman with 18 points and had seven rebounds while Rodgers finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Seth Roe led the team with eight rebounds and scored 13 points.
Each of the three players got the bulk of their rebounds in the second half. The Cavaliers outrebounded Covington 19-18 in the first half and 22-12 in the second half.
“The interior guys did a nice job rebounding,” Gleason said. “At halftime, we talked about doing a better job. In the first half, we didn’t feel like we did as good as we wanted to do. We wanted to take away some of those second shots, and I think we did that the second half.”
Lehman ended the first quarter on a 10-3 run to take a 15-8 lead heading into the second.
The Buccs battled back over the course of the second after Lee went to the bench with foul trouble. Brad Wiggins hit a 3-pointer with 3:25 left to pull Covington within 20-19 and Parrett scored in the paint about 30 seconds later to give the team a one-point lead.
Lehman retook the lead by the buzzer. Brendan O’Leary made a basket on a drive with 1:03 left, and Roe scored a basket in the paint with two seconds left to give the Cavaliers a 24-21 lead.
“The first half, I thought the guys really came out and took control and did the things that we wanted to do,” Gleason said. “Kam got in foul trouble, and that really took away a lot of our offense. We kind of limped to the finish line in the first half but came back out and did a real nice job.
“… Those two baskets there right before half were real big and gave us some momentum.”
Lehman shot 22 for 41 (53.7 percent) from the field, including shooting 0 for 7 on 3-pointers.
“I thought we did a nice job of sharing the ball and being patient on offense,” Gleason said. “We did a nice job on defense. We knew they had a couple of real nice shooters, and we focused on that. Until the end of the game when we let some things get to us, we played a really good game.”
Lehman, the No. 9 seed in the Piqua Div. IV sectional, will try to use its one-game mentality on Tuesday against No. 2 Russia (13-8), who Gleason said will present a different challenge, especially at rebounding. The Raiders have four players on their roster 6-foot-3 or taller.
“They’re just very fundamentally sound,” Gleason said of Russia. “These guys start playing basketball I think when they’re five. That’s their game. At our school we’ve got football and a lot of other stuff, but they’re all basketball. We’re going to have to come out and play very disciplined, but we’ll be ready. Hopefully we do a good job of taking care of the ball and rebounding and limiting them to one shot.”
Braden Miller led Covington with 13 points while Wiggins scored 12.