COVINGTON, Ga. — Two days before the calendar turned to 2023, the Alcovy Lady Tigers accomplished something they haven’t done in a long time.
In the championship game of the Oscar Wimberly Tournament, the Lady Tigers enjoyed an 88-58 victory over Ola High School.
Seniors T’Erica Smith and Tajah Jackson donned a big smile upon reflection of that game.
“We came together and played as a team,” Smith said. “We finished it together and brought the championship home.”
Winning that tournament championship in such fashion was representative of the preseason message head coach Justin Hunter gives to each senior class.
He urges every senior to “take ownership” of their senior year. The class of 2023 has taken Hunter’s message to heart.
“We’ve been playing together and we have that bond,” Jackson said. “It’s our last year, so we have to make the most of it and win more games than last year.”
Alcovy is 13-7 overall with a 5-5 record in Region 3-AAAAAA. To put that in perspective, the Lady Tigers won only 11 games the past two seasons. Their five region wins is also the most wins in region play since the 2014-15 season in which Alcovy went 6-4.
They are also in fifth in the region standings, a game behind Rockdale County.
Kaila Fallen, Maria Harris, Josalyn Branch, Dkhya Rudder, Diazjahna Head and Samiya Chinnery also make up this year’s senior class.
And so far, their efforts are spearheading the Lady Tigers’ turnaround.
“As a senior, you have to step up,” Smith said. “Everybody’s looking up to you, because you’re the oldest on the team. We have to make sure the team is on track all season.”
Junior Luv Llewellyn leads all scorers with 10.3 points per game with a team-high 10.2 rebounds per game. Jackson averages 2.9 assists per game along with her 30% shooting from three-point range.
Branch leads Alcovy, too, with 1.2 blocks per game.
But the Lady Tigers feel like they’re undersized compared to the majority of their opponents. To make up for that, Jackson stressed how they lean on their defense.
“Defense is our identity,” Jackson said. “We’re all small and other teams are much bigger than we are. Before the game, everyone is like, ‘Yeah, they’re pretty tall.’ But in the game, we don’t think much of it.”
The Lady Tigers have swept Region 3-AAAAAA opponents Morrow and Mundy’s Mill along with their second consecutive win over Eastside. They also defeated Westside (Macon) and Manchester on their way to winning the Oscar Wimberly Holiday Tournament.
Alcovy attacks its opponents in multiple ways on the defensive end of the floor. It is famous for its man-to-man, full-court press.
Mastering that defensive scheme has been a huge asset for the Lady Tigers as they have benefited from easy baskets on the other end.
As a result, Alcovy averages 49.35 points per game, 9.35 points better than a season ago.
Smith mentioned how the team’s preseason work has paid dividends in that regard.
“We have a good team and we’re all coming together playing as a team,” Smith said. “Before the season started, we were doing workouts, getting in the weight room and doing drills together.”
Another motivational factor that has been a boost for this year’s squad is the play of the underclassmen.
Sophomores Janae Hutcherson and Kendall Banks have risen up to star level for the Lady Tigers in addition to the lone junior, Llewellyn’s play on the court.
Smith believes that she and her fellow senior teammates’ impact will not only be felt this season, but it will live on through the younger players as well.
“I feel like as the underclassmen get older, they’ll continue to step up and help the program move forward,” Smith said.
Alcovy finishes the season with back-to-back home games against Rockdale County and Lovejoy. Then, it’ll travel to Woodward Academy and Forest Park.
This year’s region tournament has yet to be determined.
Nevertheless, all eight seniors remain focused on this year’s possibilities. They all believe that there’s more for them to accomplish.
The ultimate driving force is to finish the season in the top four of the region standings. Should the Lady Tigers accomplish that feat, it will mark the first state playoff appearance since the 2019-20 season.
Updating the history books is one thing the seniors have considered. But they feel like qualifying for the state playoffs will accomplish much more.
“I want to be in that fourth spot.” Jackson said. “That would be huge for us, because our region is really tough. If we can get in the No. 4 spot, people will be like, ‘Yeah, Alcovy girls are really good.’”