COVINGTON — When the Miami East girls basketball team trailed Covington 32-21 midway through the third quarter Thursday night at Covington, Viking junior Katie Paulus only had one thought.
“Everybody seemed down,” Paulus said. “I was trying to get everybody up. We weren’t losing our perfect season to Covington.”
From that point on, Miami East switched to full-court pressure and a man defense and outscored the Buccs 30-8 the rest of the way for a 51-40 victory to complete the second perfect season in Miami East history at 22-0 and wrap up the TRC title with a 14-0 record.
Covington finished 17-5 in the regular season, including 12-2 in the TRC.
“That is the thing that makes us hard to beat,” Miami East coach Kevin Evans said. “We can play multiple defenses. We are a great man defense and we showed that tonight.”
For Covington coach Shawn Naff, he was proud of his team’s effort.
“That is a great team we lost to,” he said. “The kids played hard and battled the whole game.”
It was Paulus — who came off the bench to score 26 points and hit five 3-pointers — who would hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give East its first lead of the second half at 39-37 with midway through the fourth quarter.
With 2:22 to go, Carlie Besecker had a 3-point play to put Covington up 40-39, but the Buccs would not score again.
Then, Logan Phillips and Maryn Gross made two huge plays to set Paulus up for the biggest shot of the game.
Phillips hit a foul line jumper to put East up 41-40.
Then, with 1:24 to go, Gross tied a Covington player for a jump ball to give the ball back to East.
With the Vikings clinging to a one-point lead, Paulus didn’t hesitate.
She drilled the dagger — a 3-pointer from the corner to put East up 44-40 with 55 seconds to go.
“I am always confident,” Paulus said. “If I have a shot, I am going to take it.”
Which is the way Evans wanted it.
“Katie (Paulus) is a great shooter,” Evans said. “If it had been anybody else, I probably would have said pull it out. But, not Katie.”
Paulus would then hit four straight free throws, Jacqueline Kadel would score on a breakaway and Gross would add a free throw for the final margin.
In the first half, East had jumped out to an 11-4 lead with two 3-pointers from Kadel and one from Paulus.
But, Covington responded by making seven 3-pointers in the opening half to take a 27-19 lead and Gracie Anderson made her fourth three of the game to start the second half to make it 30-19 before East would eventually rally.
“Gracie (Anderson) is a great shooter,” Naff said.
Musselman added 10 points to the Vikings cause and Kadel scored eight on a night where Paulus had more than half of East’s points.
“I just had a feeling at school that I was going to come out on fire tonight,” Paulus said with a smile. “I just knew I had to have a good game. It feels great to go 22-0, but everybody is 0-0 now. One game at a time.”
Gracie Anderson led Covington with 12 points.
Avery Koffer had 10, Besecker had seven points and Delaney Murphy scored five points.
The only other Miami East team to go unbeaten in the regular season was the 1998-99 team that finished 27-1 and the D-III state runnerup.
“But, we are the first to go 22-0,” Evans said. “It is a great accomplishment, but we still have a lot of goals in front of us to accomplish.”
And they would like nothing more than to match the accomplishments of the 1998-99 team.
Sports Editor Rob Kiser can be reached at [email protected]