By Josh Brown
WEST MILTON — Covington is beginning to find the answers.
Milton-Union is still asking one big question.
Jordan Maschino posted a double-double, hitting three early 3s to kickstart the Buccaneers and staying steady throughout, and though the Bulldogs trimmed a 14-point lead all the way down to one late in the third quarter, the Covington boys basketball team outscored Milton-Union 20-6 in the decisive fourth quarter to pull away for a 53-36 victory Tuesday night at Milton-Union.
Maschino had a game-high 24 points, 12 rebounds and added four assists to lead the Buccs (5-4), winners of four of their last five. He hit three first-quarter 3s to stake Covington out to a 13-8 lead after one, and Trevor Miller — who finished with 10 points — hit a pair of 3s in the second as the Buccs built a lead as big as 28-14 in the quarter.
“Jordan showed up big for us tonight,” Covington coach Matt Pond said. “He got us going in the first with those three 3s and was just solid throughout. Trevor came up big for us, too, but we got a little from everyone tonight. Zach Parrett came off the bench to give us six points, but he was also all over the place on defense, got a lot of deflections for us that were big — and we needed it tonight.
“Our kids flew around tonight. We’re still finding our way a little both offensively and defensively, and this was a big step forward for us.”
Milton-Union (0-7), meanwhile, is still trying to find a way to do one thing.
“With this group, they practice really hard, and it’s not translating onto the court in games,” Milton-Union coach Rusty Berner said. “We played very lethargic tonight. We’re not playing games at the level we practice at, and that’s the frustrating thing right now.”
Led by Maschino’s 14 first-half points, the Buccs began the game red hot from the field. In the first half, Covington was 5 for 7 from 3-point range and 11 for 20 from the field overall.
Point guard Joey Swafford’s return sparked the Bulldogs early in the second quarter as he scored six straight points to cut the Buccs’ lead to 16-14 — but Covington answered with 12 straight to go up by 14 before Tommy Smith ended that run with a three-point play. Smith then hit a long 3, and Milton-Union went into halftime trailing 28-20.
“They got to within eight and ended that quarter with some momentum,” Pond said. “Then going into the fourth quarter, we went on a drought. They did a couple things to change the tempo, and it took us a while to adjust. We’re still looking to keep that continuity going.”
The Bulldogs forced eight third-quarter turnovers and held Covington without a field goal until the final minute, going on a 14-1 run to close the gap to one at 29-28 after a fast break layup by Eric Swartz. Nathan Blei hit Maschino inside on a lob to end the run, but Zach Vagedes hit a pair of free throws to make it 31-30, and a steal gave Milton-Union a chance to take its first lead since early in the first quarter.
“The kids started to play hard in the third quarter, we got back to within one — and then we relaxed a little,” Berner said. “We missed a shot with a chance to go up by one, they went down and hit one on the other end and we kind of went ‘oh crap.’”
Covington got a stop on the defensive end and Blei scored inside at the buzzer to give the Buccs a 33-30 lead going into the fourth, and Covington took charge from there, going on a nine-point run to give itself some breathing room. Maschino scored eight points in the quarter, Covington went 6 for 8 from the free throw line and 8 for 15 from the field — all while holding the Bulldogs to only one field goal in the fourth.
Parrett added six points for the Buccs, Kenny Atkinson scored five, Tristin Sowers and Blei had three each and Jett Murphy scored two.
It was Covington’s fourth straight game on the road — with two more to go. The Buccs travel to National Trail Friday and New Bremen Saturday.
“(We outscored them) 20-6 in the fourth. That’s huge,” Pond said. “To come out on the road on a Tuesday night and beat a well-coached team that’s hungry, that’s big for us. I’m proud of the way the kids battled through some things tonight. We’re still learning as we go.”
Tommy Smith led the Bulldogs with nine points, Swartz added seven points and five rebounds, Swafford and Vagedes scored six apiece with Vagedes adding five rebounds, Blake Ullery had four points and five rebounds and Ryan Moore and Daniel Albaugh each scored two points.
It was the Bulldogs’ first game at home since their season opener back on Dec. 4. The Bulldogs will remain at home this weekend, hosting Carlisle Friday.
“Right now, we’re our biggest opponent,” Berner said. “There’s three things in a game you can control: how hard you play, how smart you play and if you play together. And we’re not controlling those things very well right now. We just have to translate the level we practice at onto the court.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.