As the lone senior on the Lady Lions, Erica Clay took matters into her own hands to ensure her senior night would be special.
Clay scored a season-high 14 points to lead Covenant to a 41-27 victory over West Academy on Thursday night. The win also clinched first place in the TNCAA south division, which comes with a home game in this week’s postseason tournament.
Madisen Madewell, the team’s leading scorer, added seven points Thursday, but everybody took a back seat to the senior. Clay was all over the court, imposing her will in hopes she would get to play on her home court one more time.
Her relentless rebounding and physical defense is something coach Lacey Slatton has come to expect.
“She’s definitely a hard worker. She hustles and is very physical,” said Slatton. “Offensively and defensively, she’s going to be missed. She has one of the prettiest shots I’ve seen – she’s one of our best spot-up shooters. We can count on her at the line.
“She gets lots of rebounds, which really helps. She does a little bit of everything.”
Covenant (9-10) needed her all-around skills to get by West Academy Thursday. The Lady Lions trailed 18-14 at the break, but Clay busted out in the second half.
The senior was able to burrow under the boards, snatching any missed shot and putting it back for valuable points. Clay scored eight of her season-high 14 in the second half.
Savanna Duggin added a huge 3-pointer late, helping seal the victory. Duggin and Sarah Sharpe finished with five points apiece, while Jaelin Stovall scored six. Addison Smith, who was recently bumped up from the middle school squad, added four points.
After losing most of the offensive punch that powered Covenant to a TNCAA championship in 2018 and a runner-up spot last season, Slatton figured this year would be a time to rebuild.
With Clay’s leadership and a number of players stepping up in new roles, it ended up being a time to reload.
“We knew this was going to be a growing year. Our expectation wasn’t to be first in the conference,” said Slatton. “Girls found their roles and worked hard. It’s been a lot of growing. We’ve had some challenges, but they have really figured it out.
“The thing about these girls is they are going to play hard, get rebounds and find second and third chances. As long as we’re rebounding and playing defense, we’re giving ourselves a chance.”
Covenant knows it will be matched up again with West Academy in the opening round of the TNCAA tournament at home, but a date is still yet to be set as of press time. Follow @sstandardsports on Twitter to get an update on the date and time for the first-round matchup coming this week.