Lions win TNCAA title

Updated: Mar 14, 2021


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A decade worth of work was rewarded with a championship Monday night.

The Covenant Lions cut down the nets at home, beating the Boyd Broncos 84-63 to claim the TNCAA South championship. Senior Terry Hines, one of the longest tenured Lions, finished with a triple-double, scoring 30 points while grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists.

Boyd was led by junior Christian Rogers, who scored a game-high 39 points in the loss.

It was the final home game for six Covenant seniors, many of which have been grinding with the Lions since they were in third grade. They took their lumps over the years, but it was worth it to go out as champions.

“Knowing what they’ve went through the last four years, we knew this could happen,” said Covenant coach Ryan Smith. “We played them as freshmen and knew it could be a struggle. We hoped it would pay off in the end. These guys have great effort and they haven’t changed who they are as people – they stayed humble, play together and play hard.

“If you have a team that plays hard, plays together and are great kids, it’s easy to coach. You just focus on basketball – you don’t coach attitude or ego. It’s just easy.”

Boyd used a rally, fueled by some outside shots by Rogers, to tie the game at 18 at the end of the first quarter. The Broncos held a 22-18 advantage at one point in the second quarter, but the Lions roared to a 36-28 lead by halftime.

Senior Elijah Smith fueled the early Lion lead, netting 15 of his 17 points in the first half for the Lions.

Noah Mason, who scored 16 points for the Lions, capped the third quarter with a buzzer-beating tip-in to make it 57-40 going into the final quarter.

The last eight minutes were an extended celebration for Covenant, full of fast-break layups, loud cheers and, ultimately, the school’s first basketball title.

Seniors Ian Lyles and Jackson Sauer got on the board late, with Lyles hitting a short jumper and Sauer scoring on a good look from Hines. Senior David Netherton also had a late putback, part of a six-point night where he was named to the all-tournament team.

Smith was also named to the all-tournament squad for Covenant, while Rogers and Jake Jones (14 points) were recognized from Boyd. Hines was named tournament MVP for his big finale.


Lion scoring – Hines 30, Smith 17, Mason 16, Netherton 6, Lyles 4, Vansh Patel 4, Luke Campbell 3, Sauer 2, Smit Patel 2

Bronco scoring – Rogers 39, Jones 14, Cameron Chilcutt 8, Sam Page 2


CLICK HERE for Painted Barn Media photos



Celebration for the seniors


Terry Hines, David Netherton, Elijah Smith, Jackson Sauer, Ethan Hillis and Ian Lyles will be forever linked in Lion lore. The majority of the seniors have played under coach Ryan Smith for eight years, starting as youngsters when the program was still in its infancy.

Now, the group delivered on its one goal from years ago. They are the group that will put a trophy in the school’s front lobby (at least when it arrives – the TNCAA didn’t send the hardware to Covenant before Monday’s game).

Coach Smith knows this core has had a big hand in building the culture at Covenant, but he also remembers those who came before them that set up this group with a chance to succeed.

“As far as building, this started with Anthony Palmer and Taylor Madewell. It has built and the thing is, Taylor and Anthony started the culture. As a coach you try to, but the bottom line is it’s the players,” said coach Smith. “The players developed a culture and these guys are a result of it. They’ve continued it.”

The sacrifices Madewell, Palmer and many other former Lions made are not lost on the current group of seniors, whom Smith has praised all season. They all wanted to give back to the school and the next generation of Lions by leaving behind a story of success.

“It felt really nice to get the championship after years of trying and losing,” said Netherton. “The school deserves it. It feels really good to get the title.”

Elijah Smith added, “It felt like 18 years (in the making) while playing basketball. It’s honestly amazing – it’s our first championship.”


(Painted Barn Media photos) From left, Terry Hines, Elijah Smith and David Netherton went out as champions Monday. All three earned all-tournament honors, including Hines being named TNCAA tournament MVP.


Lions outrun exhausted Broncos


After three weeks of no games, coach Smith didn’t know how his Lions would respond. There could be rust, leading to missed shots and more miscues. What three weeks didn’t change though was Covenant’s depth advantage over the Broncos.

The Lions used every player on their 12-person roster, knowing Boyd’s six would eventually tire out. It showed in the second half.

Covenant still looked fresh, while the Broncos were having trouble keeping pace. By the fourth quarter, the Lions were getting layups before some Boyd players were crossing halfcourt.

It was all part of the plan.

“The plan was to come out the first 3-4 minutes and play hard. That’s why we pressed – we needed to play hard. We gave up some stuff, but we wanted to get into their legs,” said coach Smith. “With a team of six guys – and their best guy is a big guy – it’s a no brainer to try to pick up the pace. We tried to do that and get into their legs – I think we did it and eventually pushed it out.”

Hines had no trouble controlling the pace late. The senior was flying up and down the court, either getting right to the rim for a layup or finding open teammates in transition. He knew the game plan and executed it to perfection.

“Coach wanted to change the strategy and said, ‘We’re going to run them.’ Those 3s (they were hitting) were going to fall short and by the end, they weren’t getting back up the court so it was easy layups,” said Hines. “That’s how we got 84 points - I think the most we’ve ever scored in Covenant history.”

Chris Perry knew depth could become a factor, but there wasn’t much the Bronco coach could do. When he was sitting on the bench by his lone sub, there weren’t any more answers down the bench to help his tiring squad.

“I think we figured some things out, especially early. It started getting away in the middle of the third – our depth sometimes plays an issue,” said Perry. “I’m proud of the guys. They did more of what we wanted them to do. At the end of the day, depth was an issue and the pressure was an issue.”


Hines shines in finale


It wasn’t a hard decision when picking the MVP Monday night. Terry Hines has been the driving force behind Covenant all season and he may have saved his best for last.

Hines finished with a triple-double, his second of the season against Boyd. It showed off his all-around skillset - Hines hit 3s, finished in the lane, grabbed contested boards, ran the offense and hit open teammates in stride.

For Hines, it was all about winning. The stats – and the MVP – were just a bonus.

“It felt great, but I’m more happy about winning,” said Hines about going out with a triple-double. “I was overjoyed. It really hasn’t hit me yet – I’m sure I’ll be a little sad when it hits me, but it’s a great way to go out.”

Nobody who has watched Hines play has a negative thing to say about the senior.

“Terry Hines is a great player. He’s a good point, he gets the ball to the right place and finds a way to the basket,” said Perry, who has seen Hines plenty from the other side in the local rivalry. “He finds a way to score – he’s a fundamental player and his team goes as he goes. I think you saw that tonight.”

Smith also sang the praises of Hines, a self-made superstar for the Lions.

“His game has progressed so far and it’s been his work. If you want to develop your game, you have to be doing things by yourself - It can’t be just in practice,” said coach Smith. “Terry goes home and works on his stuff. Every year, he adds things to his game. This year, he became a good shooter. He’s always been a pretty good finisher and ball handler.”

Smith hopes Hines continues to play in the future. Hines has looked into playing at the next level and he won’t have to look hard for a letter of recommendation.

“If Terry pursues playing at the next level, that coach is getting a quality player with a great attitude and great work ethic. He’s not on a lot of radars because he’s focused on the academic side, but if he decides to go play, somebody is getting a nice player,” said Smith.

If he doesn’t play anymore, then at least Hines didn’t disappoint in his finale. He’ll always go down as a Covenant legend.


Rogers, Boyd show grit

After losing by 61 combined points in the first two meetings, Boyd could’ve easily folded up shop early in the championship game. Covenant raced out to a 14-4 lead, threatening to run the Broncos out of the gym for the third straight time.

Christian Rogers wasn’t going to let it happen though.

Despite taking a nasty spill that left the junior gimpy the rest of the night, Rogers was still dominant against the Broncos. He notched 39 points, proving to be unstoppable in the paint against the Lions.

Rogers also showed off his shooting touch, hitting some tough 3-pointers. He had a step-back triple late in the first quarter, part of an 18-4 run that had Boyd up early in the second quarter.

Rogers had been held to 18 and 23 points, respectively, in the previous two meetings, both below his average of 25.5 points this season. With a championship on the line, Rogers was going to go down while firing at will.

“We were moving the ball better and cutting to get open. People were setting off-ball screens and it allowed me to create space. I was shooting when I got space and they were going in tonight,” said Rogers, who finished one point shy of tying his career high (40) Monday night.

Coach Ryan Smith and Lion floor general Terry Hines had nothing but good things to say about Boyd’s competitiveness and skills in the finale.

“We started out slow, but Boyd deserves a lot of credit for that. They applied the pressure. A lot of things we didn’t do well was because of them. They deserve a lot of credit,” said Smith.

Hines added, “They are good shooters. It’s hard to guard them when they’re shooting well. It was back and forth until the end.”

As the final seconds ticked away, Rogers was still battling in the paint and doing everything he could to win. It wasn’t to be Monday, but falling short this year is only going to fuel the scoring sensation throughout the summer.

“It makes me want to work that much harder,” Rogers said about falling in the championship game. “We have to work harder as a team to be able to come beat them next year. We have to clean up things – we’ll be back next year for sure.”


Lions thinking about repeat

It took a decade to get its first title, but Covenant may not have to wait as long next time. The Lions will lose a lot of firepower and experience from this year's senior class, but the program is still looking strong in the future.

Noah Mason has shown the ability to be a fulcrum of a strong offense all season, finishing as the Lions' second-leading scorer after transferring to Covenant last fall. Vansh Patel is another starter coming back, while Smit Patel, Caleb Stovall and Luke Campbell all played key roles.

The secret weapon, though, could be center Casper Standefer. Already a fan favorite, the 6-foot-9 freshman is just scratching the surface on his potential.

The outgoing seniors are confident there is still plenty of talent sticking around.

"I think we will have a good team next year. It won't be a rebuild, they will still keep going and do well," said Terry Hines.

Elijah Smith added, "This is our first basketball championship, but we're hoping to pull another home next year."



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