A senior season never to forget is playing out greater than Riley Covington ever could have dreamed.
The Boyd Buchanan point guard brought fire down the stretch Friday night with seven straight fourth-quarter points, leading a 53-41 road triumph over district foe Notre Dame.
Already with as many wins (18) as they had losses last season, the Buccaneers have made a sensational turnaround that means the world to Covington, who is playing for his third head coach in his prep career.
"Most people in my position don't see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "All of us bought in. We have a really strong junior class. I'm blessed my teammates look up to me and want to help me and my two senior teammates have a great final season."
After the Bucs won just 15 games over the past two seasons, first-year head coach Josh Templeton and his familiar taff knew it wouldn't be easy to instantly build a winning culture.
The first week of basketball with his team they did not work on the court but instead built toughness off it watching some of the greatest boxers of all time in the ring.
"Our guys woke up and decided they wanted to be tough," said Templeton, whose team is now 18-5 and 8-1 in Division II-A East District 2. "I give our players so much credit. They wanted to build something they could take pride in. They have done that. They are bought in to our warrior culture."
Covington had five assists along with 11 points to help his team remain a game back of Chattanooga Christian, which Boyd Buchanan will host next Tuesday. The Bucs fell 50-43 to the Chargers back on Jan. 4.
A stretch of seven straight points for the Bucs' only senior starter began with a strong driving finish through contact. He finished the old-school three-point play to build a commanding 47-33 lead with six minutes left to play.
The Bucs caught fire from deep in the third quarter after leading just 24-21 at the break.
Strong ball movement and penetration in the lane led to wide-open looks from the outside.
Missing their first five 3-pointers, the Bucs nailed four straight in a stretch that began and ended with a right-corner swish from junior Eli Evans, who finished with a team-high 16 points. Evans' triple at the third-quarter buzzer built a 42-32 lead.
Notre Dame was led by senior guard Derwin Lewis with a 20 points, but he was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
"I challenged Derwin to step up even more as we head down the final stretch," Fighting Irish coach Jonathan Adams said. "He is a next-level player. I know he will respond. He is a great kid and a great basketball player."
While the Irish fell to 9-12 overall and 5-3 in district play, they hope to be a postseason surprise after taking on one of the most challenging schedules in the area, they believe.
Templeton praised Notre Dame as one of the best defensive teams in the city, albeit one of the youngest, too.
"We have played East Hamilton, McCallie, Tyner and Walker Valley," Adams said. "Then in district play we have to go against CCS and Boyd twice. I have been proud of our guys' resilience. They just have to finish out a little stronger."