Covington nearly finished off an improbable postseason run Friday night against Jackson South Side in the sectionals.
The Chargers fell behind 11-0 to start the game and trailed by 17 midway through the third quarter as a a raucous standing-room only crowd in South Side's gym got louder and louder in anticipation of a blowout win.
But Covington pulled to within two points with 12 seconds left in the game and had a chance to tie when they were down by three five seconds later, but it wasn't in the cards for Covington.
South Side's Jaylen Barford made one of two free throws with five seconds left to put the wraps on a 66-65 win.
Bobby Shanks hit a 3-pointer for Covington at the buzzer to pull the Chargers within a point.
“It hurts right now,” first-year Covington coach Charles Mitchell said as the South Side players cut down the net behind him and celebrated their second straight state tournament appearance. “But we bring them all back. I was trying to get them here to see what this is all about. Now they know what it is.”
Covington (16-13) went on an 11-2 run in the fourth quarter to pull within 60-57 with 1:01 left in the game.
An intentional foul was called on Covington seconds later, and South Side (29-2) made both free throws and scored inside to go up by seven.
Covington sophomore Malcolm Taylor, who scored a game-high 27, scored with 22 ticks left to trim the lead to five before converting a 3-point play with 12 seconds left to cut the lead back to two points.
After Barford made one of two free throws with seven seconds left, Covington turned the ball over.
“The intentional foul was devastating,” Mitchell said. “That's all part of it. Take nothing away from them though. They made big shots, they made big free throws. That's the way it is.”
Covington trailed 46-37 after three quarters.
Demarcus Seaberry hit a pair of 3-pointers during Covington's fourth-quarter run and Lee Somerville came up with a steal and bucket with 1:01 left to trim the lead to three points.
Derrian Tipton had 11 points for Covington and Shanks added 10.
Barford had 18 for South Side and Malik Hicks scored 17.
Covington finished fourth in the district tournament before upsetting two higher-seeded teams in the region tournament to earn a shot at a state tournament berth.
“We did some bad things at the wrong time,” Mitchell said. “Without a missed box out here and a missed free throw there it might have been different.”