Covington had the unenviable task in the District 15-AA semifinal Friday night of facing the undefeated and second-ranked Haywood Tomcats on their home floor.
With nothing but good to gain, CHS used the full arsenal but came up short 68-55 in a game that was at a slower pace than anticipated.
Both teams circled and probed the other like prizefighters, but neither could deliver a knockout punch. The Chargers held but could not sustain one-point leads on three occasions in the early going.
Haywood (26-0) was relentless, scoring almost at will at the rim, using their superior team height to maximum their advantage over the smaller Chargers.
Even so, the Tomcats let CHS hang around, holding a slim 31-26 lead at the half.
The third and fourth quarters were little different. Repeating a season-long pattern, Covington came out cold in the decisive third period and were outscored 18-11.
No comeback was in the offing. Despite a solid 22-point fourth period, the Chargers found the mountain too tall to climb.
Turnovers were minimal for CHS with a season low five. Haywood had 12 giveaways.
Monday’s consolation game against Liberty Tech did not begin or finish well in a 77-71 loss.
Covington (17-13) did not score until 3:07 left in the first quarter and was down 15-0.
The Chargers commenced on a 15-0 run of their own to tie the score in the first few seconds of the second period, and then took an 18-17 lead a minute later.
The Chargers took the lead one more time at 22-21, but a 10-0 Liberty run to close the quarter sent the Crusaders (12-12) to the lockers with a 31-24 advantage.
CHS would not see the lead again.
The Chargers closed the gap to 31-30 early in the third quarter, but a 22-8 Liberty spurt pushed the margin back to 15. CHS got within 4 at 75-71 with under 30 seconds left, but it was too little too late.
Liberty kept the Chargers in the game with 23 turnovers to only 10 for CHS and gave them every opportunity at the free throw line, getting only 14 attempts to 33 for the Chargers.
Malcolm Taylor, who earned All-District and All-Tournament recognition, had a game-high 24 points. Bobby Shanks scored 15 and was selected to the All-District team as well.
Kaleb Estes had 11 points before fouling out. Liberty’s Kendall Walker led his team with 17 points and Ashton Willis had 15, including five 3-pointers.
CHS will face the top seed out of District 16-AA, either Manassas or Douglas, on Saturday. The site for the opening round games has yet to be determined.