NEW PARIS —The National Trail boys basketball team let a third quarter lead slip away as the team fell to Covington at home to remain win-less in Cross County Conference play.
The game started well for Blazers, according to head coach Mike Harrison, who talked about his team’s ability to slow Covington’s offense down in the first half. “I was sitting there thinking this game is going perfect for us. Defensively I thought we were forcing them to play at a slow pace and didn’t allow them to get into a rhythm,” he said.
The Blazers used a zone defense to slow down the Bucs’ scoring attack, as Covington only managed two three pointers in the first quarter.
Trail missed a layup, however, that would have given the team the lead after the first quarter. The Blazers were down 6-5 entering the second quarter.
The pace of the game remained slow in the second quarter, as the Blazers continued to play a fundamentally sound zone defense.
Behind a patient offense led by some timely baskets and assists from Peyton Harrison, the Blazers stuck close with Covington throughout the second quarter, eventually earning a halftime lead at 14-13.
Dalton Mason started the second half strong for the Blazers as he made a free throw, followed by a steal and layup by Jacob Hurd to give the hosts a four-point lead less than a minute into the second half.
Covington answered with a three, but Mason capitalized on an old-fashioned three-point play to extend the lead back to four at 20-16 on the next possession.
Covington responded with their own and was able to set up full court pressure.
A steal and lay-in by the Bucs gave the visitors the lead for the first time in the second half and they never looked back, going on a seven-nothing run for a 26-20 lead behind several Blazer turnovers forced by the full court pressure from Covington.
Harrison said the turnovers allowed Covington to get into offensive rhythm . Easy buckets and missed opportunities haunted the Blazers, who found themselves down 29-22 entering the final frame. National Trail scored two points over the course of the final seven minutes of the third quarter.
Harrison came out strong to start the fourth, and the Blazers looked poised to get back into the game with a quick five points. First Harrison hit a three, then he grabbed an offensive rebound and made a nice pass to Kaleb Deardorff who put in an easy layup for a score of 30-27.
That was the closest the Blazers would get, as Covington entered the bonus with five minutes to go and Covington pulled away in the closing minutes for a 44-31 final score.
Mason scored 12 points, Harrison added 11, Deardorff and Jacob Hurd each scored four points.
“During the first three quarters, if we hit some point-blank layups it’s a completely different game,” Harrison said. He explained, the layups forced his team to foul late in the game.
The Blazers battled illness the week prior to the game, as both Mason and Deardorff missed significant practice time. “I’m proud of my guys for fighting the adversity they did, they are showing a lot of character,” Harrison said of is young roster. “That’s what we want out of a young team, because we are going to get better if they continue to do that.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of the buy-in, the kids are buying in and working hard,” Harrison said of the season as they reach halfway. “Certainly there are things we can improve on to get better, but that comes with a young team.”
The Blazers are now 2-8 as they travel to Bethel on Tuesday, Jan. 12, and host Ansonia on Friday, Jan. 15.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062, or on Twitter @aschmidt_RH.