Gunner Kimmel converts on a layup after a steal in the first half. ©Ben Robinson/Color Green Photo

COVINGTON – The Covington Buccaneers, 3-6 overall and 1-5 in the TRC, blew a seven-point lead in the third period in a 62-59 loss to Riverside in a game that was within reach for a victory.

“Tough one to swallow,” commented coach Logan Carey, who is trying to establish some belief towards success. “ I keep telling the guys we are 90% of the way there. The last 10% is the winning part, and it’s the hardest part to master.”

Last year the Buccaneers split two games against Riverside with all but one player returning on the roster due to graduation. Riverside lost three key seniors from a year ago, which made tonight’s game a valuable opportunity for the Buccs to earn their second conference victory.

Unfortunately, the Buccaneers hurt themselves with mistakes and missed opportunities that led to their fifth loss in six games in the TRC,

“The only team good enough to beat us is us,” said Carey. “Free throw shooting, turnovers, and some mental lapses are what cost us tonight.”

Other than Britton Miller, Covington struggled knocking down shots early in the game. Miller scored 11 of Covington’s 13 points in the opening frame, but Riverside was able to build an 18-13 lead after one.

The Buccs battled back in the second by outscoring the Pirates 11-8 to cut the deficit to 26-24 at the break.

Covington caught fire in the third and built a seven-point lead midway through the frame, but Riverside was able to respond by dropping in some critical shots to close the gap to 44-41 with one period to play in front of a hometown crowd that did all it could to spark the Buccaneers.

“The environment tonight was the loudest I’ve heard it in a few years,” said Carey. “The atmosphere was there, the effort is always there, the wins are coming. We need our supporters to keep bringing that energy, because we’ve been feeding off of it.”

Yes, the environment was what Covington needed, but the outcome in the fourth period didn’t work out as expected as Riverside outscored the Buccs 21-15 in the final frame.

The difference was Riverside’s ability to get to the free throw line as the Pirates made eight of 13 free throws in the final frame, while the Buccs only converted on one of four.

Bryson Hite kept the Buccs within striking distance by scoring 9 of his 14 points in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to capture a win for Covington.

“This loss hurts, but I will say we have a great group of kids,” Carey said. “After a tough loss, we had more than a few stay and help clean up. They’re growing as leaders as young men and that’s what we set out to do in our program.”

Covington does have a great group of kids – kids who are willing to give of themselves before and after games.

And there are still plenty of games left on the schedule were this group of kids can hopefully find a way to find success on the scoreboard.

The next test is a non-conference matchup against Newton next Tuesday at home.

Britton Miller scored 11 of his game-high 19 points in the first period. ©Ben Robinson/Color Green Photo

Covington – 13 – 24 – 44 – 59
Riverside – 18 – 26 – 41 – 62

Britton Miller – 19
Bryson Hite – 14
Sam Grabeman – 7
Tanner Palsgrove – 7
Gunner Kimmel – 6
Brogen Angle – 6

Dominik Stotler – 18
Jaxon Woods – 12
Ayden Cary – 11
Gavin Orsborne – 8
Landon Purtee – 7
Miles Platfoot – 5
Nate Copas – 1

Covington – Britton Miller (1), Tanner Palsgrove (1), Sam Grabeman (1)
Riverside – Dominik Stotler (2), Gavin Orsborne (2), Miles Platfoot (1), Jaxon Woods (1), Landon Purtee (1)

Sam Grabeman scores on a runner against Riverside. ©Ben Robinson/Color Green Photo