Any initial varsity campaign brings about a season of firsts for a high school team. And that has definitely been true for the Covenant basketball programs.
Saturday night marked the first real road bump for the Covenant boys team as it was defeated in the GISA Region 4-A tournament after cruising through the regular season. Now, the Rams will get to see how they respond from that loss with another first: a trip to the state tournament.
Covenant’s boys, who lost to Dawson Street on Saturday, will face Briarwood at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Monroe Academy in the Class A first round. The Covenant girls, who are 10-13, will play Thomas Jefferson at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, also at Monroe.
“(Saturday) was a real letdown because one of our goals was to win the region tournament,” Covenant sophomore Jared Foxworth said. “We just have to get back at it and work hard this week and get ready for the state tournament. This is a big deal for our team and our school because we want to make a name for Covenant.”
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Both teams have done that so far. The boys are 23-6 after rolling through their regular-season schedule with an 11-1 record in their region. The girls were 5-3 in the region during the regular season and avoided a play-in game in the region tournament.
That clinched a spot in the state tournament, and Covenant beat Monroe in the semifinals before losing to Oak Mountain in the final.
“We are very excited and thrilled with our season because one of our goals was to avoid the play-in game, and we were able to do that,” Covenant girls head coach Todd Whetsel said. “The opportunity to go to the state tournament in our first year is really exciting for us.”
The Covenant girls have reason to be excited about their future, as well. Whetsel’s team will start two eighth-graders in the playoffs: Lauren Battle, who is in her first year at the school, and point guard Winter Brown.
Brown leads the team in scoring, averaging more than nine points per game.
“We ask her to do a whole lot for an eighth-grader,” Whetsel said of Brown. “She’s our leading scorer and handles the bulk of our ballhandling. And with her playing point guard, she usually has a difficult defensive assignment. It’s been a pretty big challenge, and she’s been able to handle it”
The boys team will get to see this week how it handles adversity after Saturday’s loss. Covenant has no seniors on its team with four juniors (Gunnar Mendiola, Sam Ashmore, Michael Battle and Caleb Farr) serving as experienced leaders.
A strong sophomore class of Foxworth, Andretti Loyd and Josh Cooper handles most of the scoring. Loyd, a point guard, averages more than 16 points per game, while Cooper, a center, and Foxworth, a forward, both average double figures.
“We’ve had a great first year,” Covenant boys head coach Glenn Kelley said. “I can’t explain how disappointed we were about Saturday, but now we have to refocus. We definitely have a good chance to do well in the state tournament, and our goal now is to get to the Final Four, and we need to focus on that.”