When Covington played Macon County two years ago in the state quarterfinals, the Lady Chargers fell behind by eight points early, never led and lost by 18.
Thursday morning inside Middle Tennessee State’s Murphy Center, again against Macon County in the Class AA state quarterfinals, things went drastically different in the early going.
Na’Kyla Gilliam and CorTayza Flowers each hit a 3-pointer in the game’s early moments to put Covington up 6-0 and the Lady Chargers led by five midway through the second quarter when Kalynn Howard made a 3.
The final result, however, ended up being about the same as two years ago.
Macon County (24-6) started the third quarter with a full-court press, held Covington scoreless for the first 6:15 of the period and went on to a 49-34 win.
“I told the girls at halftime, even though we were down by two, we were in a good spot,” Covington head coach Katrisha Glass said. “I told them how crucial it was that we didn’t let them go on a run, and we did. Just missed assignments, turning the ball over and we never could recover.”
Covington shot 6 of 11 from the floor, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, in the first quarter, but made just six field goals over the final three quarters and finished with 21 turnovers.
Howard led Covington with 14 points and shot 3 of 6 from 3-point range while playing all 32 minutes.
Felia Fayne, Covington’s second-leading scorer during the season, was limited by foul trouble and scored six points in just 15 minutes. After sitting out most of the second quarter with two fouls, she picked up her third on a questionable call as soon as she re-entered the game with 1:10 left in the first half.
“I wish this game was better than it was,” an emotional Fayne said after the game. “I wish I had gotten a chance to play more with my team and get in the flow of the game.”
“The outcome wasn’t what we wanted,” Glass said. “I thought we executed the game plan in the first half how we were supposed to, but in the second half it went the other way. We were out of sync and couldn’t get our bigs in the flow of the game because of foul trouble.”
Howard hit a 3-pointer with 1:45 left in the third quarter to break a scoring drought and cut Macon County’s lead to 28-22, but Macon County answered with a 17-5 run to put the game out of reach.
“Once they got that cushion it was hard to come back because they know how to run their offense and hold it,” Glass said.
Macon County senior Jalynn Gregory, a Miss Basketball finalist and Middle Tennessee State signee, hit two straight 3-pointers early to tie the game at 6-6 and led all scorers with 21 points.
The Lady Tigers started the game in a zone but switched to man-to-man late in the first quarter. Macon County head coach Larry White said he believed that was the turning point in the game.
Despite the loss, Covington made some history by making the state tournament two out of three seasons, something that has never been done by any Tipton County basketball team.
“I definitely love my teammates, my coaches, everybody,” Fayne said. “I’m going to miss it so much.”
“I loved my time here, my teammates and my coaches,” Howard said. “It was definitely fun. We made history making it here two out of three years.”
Glass has been to three state tournaments as a coach and one as a Covington player. She said this year’s team was special.
“I definitely felt like this time coming in the girls were more relaxed,” she said. “I felt they knew they had a chance and they showed that in the first half. I would say this was probably the best team we’ve had. If I had to rank it I would definitely go with this year.”