The TNCAAA championship is coming to Warren County this year. All that is left to decide is which local school will hoist the trophy Monday night.
Covenant, the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, will welcome Boyd to its home court for Round 3 of the local rivalry. This one will be the biggest matchup of all – the TNCAA south title is on the line.
Due to numerous postponements in the last few weeks, the TNCAA decided to change up its postseason tournament. Covenant and Boyd were both supposed to play in the semifinals against teams from the North division in the last week, but games weren’t able to take place.
With spring seasons creeping up, the conference made the decision to pit the two remaining teams from each division against each other. It means the TNCAA will name two champions this year – the Lions and Broncos are both ready to fight for the south division.
Covenant has the momentum going into the finals. The Lions routed Boyd in both matchups this season, winning at home 77-48 and at Boyd 80-48. Coach Ryan Smith doesn’t expect the third matchup to be easy, especially with his team accumulating rust due to a long layoff.
“It’s hard to beat a good team three times in a season. We have a lot of challenges we are going to have to overcome,” said Smith. “We haven’t played in about three weeks so we have been scrimmaging a lot to keep it game like as much as possible. Boyd has played a few games since we last played, so that will be an advantage for them.
“I expect Boyd to play its best game of the year.”
Smith also mentioned his team has been getting up extra shots in during the down time and have added a few new wrinkles.
Coach Chris Perry is preparing his Broncos in hopes of pulling off the upset against the conference’s top squad. He’s hopeful the results from the first two matchups won’t prove to be a trend when Monday’s game starts.
“Obviously, we haven’t played well against them the prior two times. These boys know each other outside of school and that adds a layer to it. We will try to make adjustments and hopefully be successful,” said Perry.
Both teams bring star power to the finals.
Covenant is led by charismatic senior point guard Terry Hines, while Boyd’s big man Christian Rogers is one of the best scorers and rebounders in the state.
Hines had a triple-double in the last meeting at Boyd and has since notched his 1,000th career point. He’s the leader of a big senior class that includes Elijah Smith, David Netherton, Ethan Hillis, Jackson Sauer and Ian Lyles. Hines has talked all season about doing whatever it takes to bring home a title.
“We work well as a team. We can play teams that are bigger and stronger, but we have played together for so long, we know where everybody is going to be,” Hines said earlier this season. “We are giving 100 percent to try to win Covenant a title. We’re always going to play together.”
They don’t get bigger or stronger than Rogers in the TNCAA. The junior scoring machine made personal history the last time he played at Covenant, scoring his 1,000th point on the first bucket of the game. He’s not stopped scoring since.
Rogers has scored 40 points twice in games since the last meeting against Boyd. In his last outing, Rogers scored 39 points in a close loss to Daniel One Academy. For the season, Rogers averages 25.5 points and 12.7 rebounds, though he’s been held below his scoring average in both matchups with Covenant (23 and 18 points, respectively, in the two losses).
Smith believes the first few minutes will tell the story of the title game.
“We need to come out playing hard. I think the first four minutes will say a lot about our mental and physical effort,” said Smith.
On the other side, Perry is expecting the title game to add another chapter to a growing local rivalry.
“This is the last time for these two teams to see each other as they look currently. We look forward to playing in what has become a good rivalry,” said Perry.
Tip-off Monday is set for 6 p.m.