Bethel girls basketball gets ‘statement’ win over Covington


BRANDT — In an early-season matchup of Three Rivers Conference unbeatens, it was Bethel coming away with the statement win.

The Bees, 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the TRC, handed Covington its first loss of the season 43-38.

The Lady Buccs drop to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in TRC play.

“It absolutely was (a statement win),” Bethel first-year coach Caleb South, a former Bees start, said. “For me to get this opportunity at such a young age and mom having been part of this program, it means so much. Every girls contributed to this win.

“I know graduating two 1,000 point scorers, no one expected us to be good this year. I posted that in the locker room and have reminded the kids of that.”

It was a tough night for Covington against the Bethel 1-2-2 zone defense.

“This one is on me,” Covington coach Brandon Studebaker said. “I just didn’t do a good job preparing the girls for this game. The girls did what they were supposed to do. I knew we were going to see a 1-2-2 (zone) and I didn’t do a good job preparing my team for it.”

Both team’s defensive philosophies were eerily similar.

“Covington has two great players in Carlie Besecker and Claudia Harrington,” South said. “We were going to harass them and make someone else beat us. And they weren’t able to do that.”

Studebaker had similar thoughts.

“Kerrigan Calhoun and Karley Moore had scored most of their points,” he said. “We were going to make someone else beat us and they had other girls step up. Give them credit.”

Covington struggled shooting the ball from the outset, hitting just two of 11 shots in the opening quarter as the Buccs never led in the game and the only tie was 13-13 in the second quarter.

Bethel led 11-7, 23-17 and 34-29 at the quarter breaks.

“We missed a lot of shots early that we normally make,” Studebaker said. “When that happens, you lose confidence. And the thing about their 1-2-2 zone is the length they have.”

Bethel finished the first half on a 10-4 run and scored the first four points of the second half to go up by double digits at 37-27.

Grace Bennett had four points in that run and Maddie Montgomery had four points in both the second and third quarters, to compliment Moore — who had 15 in the first three quarters.

“Grace did a good job off the bench,” South said. “And Maddie Montgomery was just phenomenal tonight.”

Harrington buried two 3-pointers late in the third quarter to get Covington back within 34-29 going to the final eight minutes.

Another Harrington basket got Covington to within 38-35 with 2:20 to go, but Bethel was able to finish off the win.

With Bethel leading 42-28 with 17 seconds to go, Moore missed the front end of a one-and-one.

But, Leah Heffner took the rebound away from Covington and made one of two free throws for the final margin.

“To me, that rebound by Leah Heffner was the biggest play of the night,” South said. “Because, that is what we are about.”

Moore finished with 19 points and eight rebounds for the Bees.

Montgomery had eight points and six rebounds, Heffner scored seven points and Calhoun pulled down five rebounds.

Harrington had a double-double for Covington with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Besecker had eight points and nine rebounds and Claire Fraley had six points and 12 rebounds.

Bethel was 17 of 51 from the floor for 33 percent and eight of 16 from the line for 50 percent.

Covington was 15 of 42 from the floor for 36 percent and four of six from the line for 67 percent.

The Buccs won the battle of the boards 36-28, but had 20 turnovers to Bethel’s 13.

Covington will look to bounce back against Northridge Saturday.

“I told the girls there is no reason to hang their heads,” Studebaker said. “There is a lot of basketball left in the season and the conference crown is definitely something that is on our minds.”

Bethel will host Lehman Saturday.

“We have three girls on the team, that have younger sisters in the program,” South said. “They are all going to be on this team in the future. Having played here, that is something that really excites me. We are building the program brick by brick.”

And picked up a statement win early in the process.

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