Sisters Meghan (center) and Maddie Downing (right) are the Tri-Village “Twin Towers.” Tri-Village defeated visiting Covington 44-35 in a girls high school basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Tri-Village “Twin Towers” lead Patriots over Covington in CCC showdown

»» PHOTOS: Covington at Tri-Village girls basketball

“We do it as much as needed,” admitted Maddie after Tri-Village took the Cross County Conference girls basketball lead by defeating visiting Covington 44-35 on Thursday night. “It’s just trying to make each other better, for sure.”

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This was a matchup of two great small-school programs, both of which advanced to the Division IV regional last season. Each team returned the bulk of starting units with expectations of more CCC postseason glory. Both had something else in common: they previously were beaten by Versailles, the D-III state runner-up last season.

Maddie Downing of Tri-Village (left) contends with Makenzee Maschino of Covington for a rebound. Tri-Village defeated visiting Covington 44-35 in a girls high school basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

“As a coach, do we look forward at what the potential tournament road could be?” Tri-Village coach Brad Gray said. “Absolutely and we think we have a good group of kids and can make a nice run.”

Here’s why. Tri-Village (13-1) won its 12th straight game and overtook Covington for the CCC lead at 7-0. Covington (12-2) had a nine-game win streak snapped and fell into a tie with Miami East for second in the CCC at 7-1.

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As a freshman, Meghan Downing has delivered an immediate Patriots impact. The lefty led Tri-Village with a game-high 14 points. Maddie Downing, a junior and three-year starter, added 12 points. Both played on the same Team Ohio AAU squad last summer for former Dayton Lady HoopStars coach John Coffee.

“It’s definitely an amazing thing to be able to play basketball with your sister,” Maddie said. “You can trust each other to carry the load.”

It was on the Downings to patrol the basket area and two other Patriots to chase Covington all-time career scorer and Trevecca Nazarene University (Tenn.) signee Sammi Whiteman, who was limited to 12 points.

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“Meghan is a special talent,” Gray said. “It really adds another dimension to us and gives us the ability to have twin towers in there where you can do a lot.”

Maddie Downing of Tri-Village snaps a rebound away from Covington’s Lauren Christian. Tri-Village defeated visiting Covington 44-35 in a girls high school basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Covington closed within 39-35 on Morgan Lowe’s 3-pointer with less than three minutes left. Andi Bietry (three), Lissa Siler and Bethel (Ind.) signee Emma Printz of Tri-Village combined for five game-ending free throws.

Both teams should land high D-IV sectional seeds later this month and will position themselves in separate brackets. That’s what happened last season when Tri-Village (21-6) fell to eventual D-IV state champ Minster and Covington (20-7) was eliminated by Fort Loramie in regional semifinals. Covington advanced by winning its first district title since 2007.

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That was a tough regional task for the CCC teams. Minster of the Midwest Athletic Conference has won three D-IV state titles, all since 1998. Loramie, out of the Shelby County League, owns two state titles and has seven final four appearances since 1997.

“(That was) quite an honor for the conference,” veteran Covington coach Jim Meyer said. “You aspire to reach those Loramie and Minster heights.”

Sisters Meghan (center) and Maddie Downing (right) are the Tri-Village “Twin Towers.” Tri-Village defeated visiting Covington 44-35 in a girls high school basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Miami East 68, Newton 35: Morgan Haney scored 28 points for the visiting Vikings on Thursday. Miami East (11-4, 7-1) is tied with Covington for second in the CCC and Franklin Monroe (10-3, 6-2) is in fourth place. East hosts Tri-Village at noon on Saturday.

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Bellbrook 49, Franklin 23: Maren Freudenschuss had 14 points and Kayla Paul 12 as the host Golden Eagles snapped a three-game losing skid with a significant Southwestern Buckeye League upset. Bellbrook (5-8, 3-3) advanced to the D-II state final four last season. Franklin (10-3, 8-1) had a four-game win streak snapped and suffered its first loss in divisional play.

• Top-ranked Minster (13-0) is at Fort Loramie (12-1) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in what could be another girls basketball postseason preview. Minster eliminated Loramie 44-28 in a D-IV regional final last season.

Minster (3-0) is second to Versailles (10-3, 5-0) in the MAC. Loramie, which lost 44-43 to West Liberty-Salem, leads the SCAL (7-0).

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• Centerville (13-1) is at Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame (11-1) in a girls non-league showdown at 1 p.m. Saturday. ND has won 11 straight since dropping its opener by five points to defending D-III state champ Columbus Africentric.

• Sidney (9-1) owns an eight-game win streak, longest among Greater Western Ohio Conference boys. The Yellow Jackets are idle Friday and host Wapakoneta (8-2) of the Western Buckeye League at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a great non-league matchup.

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