COVINGTON, Ga. — Both Alcovy basketball programs entered Tuesday’s contests seeking their first Region 3-AAAAAA victories of the 2022-23 season. Neither team could accomplish that feat, however, against the Rockdale County Bulldogs at home.
The Lady Tigers were downed 58-28 to start the night followed by the Tigers’ slim, 60-59 loss.
Win slips through Tigers’ hands
Alcovy seemed to control Tuesday’s matchup against Rockdale for most of the night. By the end, though, the Tigers were in search of one more bucket to win the game.
Trailing 60-59 with 14.2 seconds left, Alcovy took the ball full court out of a timeout. The ball ended up in the hands of Keyrone Hendrix.
The junior missed the contested shot off the left side of the rim as the clock hit 0:00.
Head coach Taylor Jackson explained how he believes the Tigers let their lead slip away.
“[Rockdale] was just tougher,” Jackson said. “We’re still figuring out what it means to be tough. It starts with me…trying to find ways in practice putting them in meaningful scenarios. We have to find a way to be tougher. We jumped out on them and tough teams put them away.”
The Tigers entered the final eight minutes with a 12-point advantage. Rockdale’s 12-0 run in less than four minutes erased that separation and tied things up 53-all.
From that point, there were another two ties and five lead changes.
The definitive lead change came with 39 seconds left on the clock, courtesy of a Rockdale layup.
In the final ticks of the clock, though, Alcovy had its opportunities to gain the win. The Bulldogs missed four straight free throws across that span, but the Tigers could not seem to capitalize down the stretch.
It was a different scene earlier in the contest, though.
Alcovy opened with a 23-11 lead 6:04 into the game and, by halftime, it led 35-26. The Tigers connected on eight, three-pointers in the first 16 minutes of action.
Three more three-pointers went through the net for Alcovy, too, which helped with its 53-41 advantage heading into the fourth.
Jackson was emphatic with his agreement following Tuesday’s outcome that defense is the biggest area for improvement with his squad.
“Oh, 100 percent. And it’s not a skill deficit or an athleticism deficit, it’s a heart deficit. ‘Do you want it?’ And the answer to that for us now is, ‘No.’ We gotta figure it out. We’re just not where we want to be right now.”
Nick Durham was the top scorer for Alcovy with 23 points followed by Jaqari Smith’s 12 and Andre Jernigan’s 11.
Despite Tuesday’s outcome, Jackson is confident that his team can bounce back the rest of the way.
“We saw it in the first quarter. Peak Alcovy basketball is pretty freaking good. It’s a lot of fun,” Jackson said. “But we go through those stretches where it’s really not acceptable. Just trying to find a way to minimize those things and be tough enough to endure those things.
“We’re going to figure it out. We’re going to be a fun team to watch. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to play us come February. We’ll be ready.”
Lady Bulldogs pull away late from Lady Tigers
Tuesday’s match between the Lady Tigers and Lady Bulldogs was much closer than a 30-point separation.
Going into the fourth quarter, Alcovy only trailed 32-26. However, in the final eight minutes, the Lady Tigers were outscored 26-2.
Head coach Justin Hunter pointed to the defensive end for the game becoming lopsided.
“We lost our defense of execution that we had for the first three quarters and a half,” Hunter said. “Execution of the defensive objective was not carried to the optimal level.”
Alcovy surrendered four, three-pointers in the fourth quarter alone with three of them coming from Tre-Miyah Berry.
Plus, the Lady Tigers did not connect on a single field goal attempt during that quarter. The only points were scored from the free-throw line.
Kendall Banks knocked two down at the 1:29 mark to end the scoring drought and to stop an 18-0 run by the Lady Bulldogs.
But it was too little too late as the Lady Tigers trailed 50-28.
Seven games into the 2022-23 season, Alcovy remains without senior Luv Llewellyn due to an injury. She averaged a near double-double as a junior last year.
Hunter stressed that in the Lady Tigers’ games so far, Llewellyn is missed.
“It’s more than what she would’ve been able to do from the offensive contribution standpoint,” Hunter said. “Controlling the boards, rebounds and blocked shots…those are some of the intangibles that she would offer down the stretch and help make some of these outcomes appear different than they have. We miss her a bunch.”
Hunter said there is no “clear timetable” for Llewellyn’s return.
Nevertheless, Hunter recognized a few players who have stepped up all year in Llewellyn’s on-court absence.
Kendall Banks, who led all Alcovy scorers with nine points Tuesday night, was one of them as well as Janae Hutcherson. Hutcherson contributed eight points.
Abigail Pollett and Shamariah Gibbs each scored five points.
The final score notwithstanding, Hunter believes his team can turn things around for Friday’s road matchup at Forest Park — a game Hunter deemed as a “must win.”
“Just to say, ‘Hey, we can get a win in the region despite missing one of our key players,” Hunter said. “We’ve played some of the top teams in the region thus far. We know what the measuring stick is. And, tonight, for 3.5 quarters, we were playing quality ball enough to be in the game with a top team in the region. It lets us know that we have to find a way to do this for four quarters and hopefully be on top at the end.”