• Coach Butch Hopkins and the 2013 Munford boys pose for a photo after winning the district title. Photo by Jeff Ireland

There have been a ton of monumental high school basketball games played by Tipton County-area teams since 2010.

Though there were no state titles, some teams came close. In other cases, teams made postseason runs that nobody saw coming.

Most of the following games were losses for the home team, but that doesn’t make them any less memorable. The backstories of each team are just as, if not more, important than the games themselves.


Covington girls nearly win state tourney opener

March 7, 2013

If the Covington Lady Chargers were ever going to win a state title, the 2012-13 season seemed like the time do it.

After routing Trezevant by 35 points in a sectional game, Covington was ranked second in the final Class AA state poll with a gaudy 35-2 record.

The first round matchup in Murfreesboro was against Macon County, which was not ranked but had more state tournament experience. Covington had not been to state since 2002.

Covington trailed by 12 early in the fourth quarter before senior Ashia Jones, who led all scorers with 23 points, converted a 3-point play to trim the lead to three with 3:56 left.

Macon County surged further ahead again, but senior Precious Dyson hit a 3-pointer with 1:25 left to cut the lead to 61-58.

With 36 seconds left and Covington still down by three, Dyson took a 3-pointer from the corner that went halfway down before rimming out.

Covington was down by two after Jones scored again with two seconds left and Covington got creative. The Lady Chargers were out of timeouts, meaning Macon County did not have to inbound the ball. Jones grabbed the ball and ran off the court.

Delay of game was called, the clock was stopped and Macon County was forced to make one more inbounds pass, which it did to end the game.

Macon County won 65-63 and advanced to the finals, where it lost on a buzzer beater to Christ Presbyterian Academy.

It was the most wins in program history for Covington.

“If we would have had a couple more minutes,” a tearful Jones said after the game, “I think it would have been ours.”

TRA boys advance to program’s second state title game

March 1, 2019

After winning the DII-A-West region title and taking care of Goodpasture in a wild sectional game at home, the TRA Rebels moved on to the DII-A state tournament for just the second time in school history.

The only thing standing between TRA and the state title game was Webb School.

Early in the fourth quarter, it looked like Webb School was going to be too much for TRA. The Rebels trailed by nine with 5:45 to go.

Webb’s lead was still four with 3:40 left in the game, but TRA finished on an 11-2 run and held on for a 67-62 win.

A pair of free throws by Tysen Banks with 27 seconds left put TRA up by two and a defensive stop ended Webb School’s season.

TRA lost to Knoxville Webb the following day in the title game, but it was quite a season, and a family affair.

Brothers Alex (18 points) and Andrew Anderson (16), the sons of head coach Cedric Anderson, came up huge all year. Banks, a cousin of the Anderson brothers, scored 19 in the game.

During the postgame interview, Cedric Anderson said Banks told him in the closing minutes of the game, with the Rebels down by four, that he “was not going to allow us to go home.”

“Our moniker since December has been believe,” the coach said with a smile, “so I believed him.”

Lady Rebels’ first trip to state ends in agony

March 5, 2020

Already riding the high of making the state tournament for the first time in school history, it sure looked like the Tipton-Rosemark Lady Rebels were about do to something else for the first time:

beat Trinity Christian Academy.

After losing to TCA three times earlier in the season, TRA had the state’s top ranked team on the ropes early in a state semifinal game in Nashville.

The Lady Rebels jumped out to a 12-0 lead and did not allow TCA to score until the 7:15 mark of the second quarter. TRA’s fans were joyous and TCA’s fans were stunned.

Rosemark led by 14 late in the third quarter before Sally Howell capped of a TCA run with two straight 3-pointers midway through the fourth that put the Lady Eagles right back in the game.

With TRA down by two, Brianna Hall scored with 17 seconds left to send the game into overtime.

Megan Sanfratello, who hit five 3s in the game and finished with 18, hit a 3-pointer for TRA on the first overtime possession, but TCA took control after that and won 64-59.

Sanfratello and Hall were still in tears 15 minutes after the game ended when they fielded questions from the media.

“Right now, I’m just made that we lost,” Sanfratello said. “Later it will set in that no other team has done this and that’s exciting to accomplish.”

Said Hall: “It’s sad that we didn’t get the end result we wanted, but knowing that we got here is very big for us.”

Brighton goes toe-to-toe with mighty Memphis East

March 6, 2017

Outside of Brighton fans, there were few if any people inside the standing-room-only Memphis East gym who thought this sectional was going to be a competitive game.

All five of the starters for East, which was ranked first in the state and second in the nation, went on to play D-1 basketball: T.J. Moss (South Carolina), Alex Lomax (Memphis), Chandler Lawson (Oregon), Jayden Hardaway (Memphis) and Malcolm Dandridge (Memphis).

The best three players for Brighton, which had never played a sectional game, were juniors, though one, Taelyr Gatlin, would go on to play at D-1 Denver.

And, oh yeah, the Mustangs were coached by Penny Hardaway. No introduction necessary.

Nevertheless, Brighton head coach Stan Gatlin and his players seemed unfazed.

Brighton led 27-23 early in the second quarter, Hardaway called a timeout and the Brighton student section began an “overrated” chant.

The Cardinals stayed right with the home team until a 19-2 third quarter run led to a 73-54 win for East, which went to win its second of three straight state titles.

Zach Lewis hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter to finish with 18. Gatlin made four 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 21.

“Overall, we had a great season,” Taelyr Gatlin said after the game. “We made history at Brighton High School. We just played a good team in the sub-state game and they beat us.”

Said Stan Gatlin: “Our guys were not afraid. Like I’ve said, I’ll take these guys against anybody, but our lack of depth hurt us. When you play a team that’s pressuring you the whole game like that, it’s hard to maintain that.”

Lady Chargers beat South Side for fourth state tourney berth

March 2, 2019

Entering a sectional matchup between Covington and Jackson South Side, the Lady Hawks were considered the favorites.

South Side was 30-4 and coming off a narrow loss to Westview, a team that would go on to finish state runner-up. Covington was led by a pair of sophomores.

A large contingent of fans made the trip from Jackson and filed into Castellaw Gym expecting their team to win and advance to Murfreesboro.

It didn’t happen.

Thanks to big nights from Felia Fayne and Kalynn Howard, Covington won 53-43 and advanced to the Class AA state tournament.

Covington came out hot and led 28-15 at the half, but a 13-2 South Side run trimmed the lead to two midway through the third quarter.

It ended up being the last gasp for South Side.

Howard scored 12 of her 18 points in the second half and Fayne finished with 21.

Only three Tipton County high school basketball teams have made the state tournament since 1987, and it was the Covington girls each time.

Improbable postseason run comes up just short

March 10, 2014

The Covington boys’ basketball team was not supposed to even sniff a state berth.

Covington finished fourth in its district tournament and had to travel to Douglass, which was ranked seventh in the state, for a region quarterfinal game. Covington won.

Westwood was up next. Covington sophomore Malcolm Taylor scored 36 points and grabbed 17 rebounds and the Chargers pulled off another upset.

That set up a trip to Jackson South Side, a team that had finished state runner-up the previous season, in a sectional game, the winner of which would advance to state.

Covington was a heavy underdog again. When the Chargers fell behind 11-0 and were down 17 midway through the third quarter, it seemed like the dream of making state was over, except it wasn’t.

Taylor, who finished with a game-high 27 points, scored five straight points to pull Covington within two points with 12 seconds left in the game.

After South Side made a free throw, Covington had a chance to tie it with a 3-pointer, but a turnover nixed that idea and the Hawks escaped with a 66-65 win.

Two weeks later, South Side won the Class AA state title.

“It hurts right now,” first-year head coach Charles Mitchell said after the game, “but we bring all of them back. I was trying to get them here to see what this is all about. Now they know what it is.”

New coach leads Munford to first title in 17 years

Feb. 19, 2013

When Butch Hopkins came out of retirement to coach the Munford boys’ basketball team in the summer of 2012, nobody knew quite what to expect.

He had an outstanding coaching resume, but he was 66 years old and it had been a decade since he’d led a team. How would he relate to a bunch of teenagers?

Turns out quite well.

Thanks in no small part to Jonathan Stark, a transfer from Brighton who would go on to star at Murray State and play professionally, the Cougars beat Dyer County (Hopkins’ old team) to claim the program’s first district title in 17 years.

Dyer County, which had won six straight district titles, cut a six-point Munford lead in overtime to one before Stark hit two free throws to push the lead to three.

Dyer County’s Robert Hubbs, who went to play at Tennessee, missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer and the Cougars celebrated a 66-63 win.

Freshman Reggie Holmes scored the first four points in overtime and finished with 12.  Stark scored 21.

“I’ve been coaching 31 years and I’ve had five all-state guards,” Hopkins said after the game. “He’s (Stark) the best I’ve ever had. He was the best player on the court. He brings a level you can’t meet.”

Covington misses out on berth in state tournament that never happened

March 9, 2020

Covington’s 2019-20 team was loaded.

Three seniors – Brandon Alston, Vontae Powell and TyJuan Smith – led the team in scoring, the Chargers won 20 of 21 during one impressive stretch and spent most of the season ranked in the state’s top 10.

Despite all that, Covington still had to go through Jackson South Side, which was 31-0 and ranked first in the state, to get to Murfreesboro.

Playing in front of a standing-room only crowd, which always seems to be the case at South Side, Covington hung with the Hawks for two-plus quarters.

But Smith fouled out in the third quarter and South Side went on a 20-4 run after that to win 77-57.

If Covington would have won it would have been the program’s first trip to state since 1987, but not really. As it turned out, COVID-19 forced the postponement and then cancellation of the state tournament.

Nevertheless, it was a great season (28-6) that ended on a down note.

“You just have to get ready for next year,” head coach Charles Mitchell said. “The kids had a great season. It was just one of those things.”

Munford girls make sectionals for first time

March 2, 2013

The Lady Cougars were facing a Herculean task.

Memphis Central, which had advanced to state four straight times, was in town for a sectional game, the winner of which would advance to Class AAA state tournament.

Three days previously, Munford beat Jackson North Side for the region title and advanced to the sectionals for the first time in school history.

Central led by just one at the half before opening up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Shaliyah Wiggins hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left in the game to cut the deficit to five, but Munford could not get any closer and saw its season end in a 55-45 loss.

Wiggins and Robneisha Lee led Munford with 15 points each. Central’s Nina Davis, who went on to play at Baylor, also scored 15.

“We don’t have anybody who’s signed a scholarship at this point and they have at least two D-1 players on their team and we competed with them,” Munford coach Steve Poindexter said. “We may have rattled them a little with pressure late, but at the end of the day the shots just didn’t go in.”

Cougars take down Dyer County for district title

Feb. 19, 2019

Without any context, one might think winning a district title does not warrant inclusion on this list.

However, the way Munford got there in 2018 was quite a tale.

Ryan Ross was hired in 2015 and inherited a struggling program. Munford won just four games the previous season.

At the first day of tryouts, Ross noticed four freshmen – twin brothers Kyree and Kylan Cunningham, James Farrow and Landon Winter – with some promise. After that first workout he told Munford’s administration he believed that foursome could return the program to prominence.

He was right.

That four-year plan culminated when the Cougars beat Dyer County to win the District 13-AAA title.

A pair of 3-pointers by Kyree and one by Winter staked Munford to a nine-point lead midway through the third quarter, but Dyer County rallied to tie the score with 2:49 left.

Winter hit his third 3-pointer of the game moments after that and Kylan made four key free throws to seal the win. Kyree was the tournament MVP and Farrow played all 32 minutes and scored eight.

“When you have a bunch of guys who believe in each other, believe in what you’re doing and your system, this is the kind of stuff that happens,” Ross said after the game. “You don’t win something like this unless you’re playing for more than yourself, and they play for each other.”

Jeff Ireland
Author: Jeff Ireland