OCH Regional Medical Center Athlete of the Week: Covington

Jariyah Covington
Staff Writer

Coach Kristie Williams knew that her Starkville Lady Yellowjackets were going to be challenged in a big way in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A State Tournament last Saturday.
The Lady Jackets had already played Harrison Central earlier in the year and turned out to be the only loss to a Mississippi team that the Red Rebels had all year. The second meeting was tougher as expected and the Lady Jackets moved to 30-0 in a 35-27 battle.
“I knew that playing Harrison Central again would be a tough battle,” Williams said. “On our side of the ball, we didn’t shoot as well as we anticipated, but we did enough on defense that kept us afloat throughout. It came down to our effort on defense.”
While the defensive matchup played right into SHS’ hands, it needed someone to produce offensively. Harrison Central planned to stop Kelsey Jones and were successful, but junior Jariyah Covington stepped in for a game-high 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting to help.
Her work in 32 minutes of play was good enough to help her team move on in the playoffs and also earned her OCH Athlete of the Week honors.
“Once I saw they were double and triple teaming Kelsey, I knew that someone had to score because we couldn’t get it down low,” Covington said. “I had to take it upon myself when I was open to shoot the ball. I think it was good for the team.”
The junior guard has become a huge part of what the Lady Jackets want to do both offensively and defensively and she’s improved each season.
Williams has noticed her progression from last year to this year especially.
“She’s been with us since her freshman year and has progressively gotten better,” Williams said of Covington. “That determination to give her very best effort has surfaced to the top.”
Starkville needs Covington’s production to continue Wednesday in Jackson as well as the rest of her teammates. The Lady Jackets are trying to get over the hump of the semifinal round that’s been a nemesis the last two seasons.
The season has ended for SHS each of the last two years one game shy of a state championship appearance and it's looking to change fortunes today at 1:30 p.m. against Biloxi (24-9).
Williams knows her team has what it takes to win it all, but this will be all about mental toughness more than anything else.
“It’s a mental grind," Williams said. "It’s the third-straight year in this same spot. Now it comes down to how bad we want it. We know that Biloxi is a defensive-minded team that will push us to our limit. Mentally, we’ve got to be stronger than we’ve ever been.”
For the players, they have the same mindset as their coach and all are hungry to get over the speed bump that has become the semifinal round. There is no looking ahead to a championship matchup.
As always, defense is how the Lady Jackets believe they will get win No. 31.
“We’ve got to play good defense,” Covington said. “We know we can score, but the key to winning the game is defense overall. We know how to get around them stopping Kelsey so defense is always going to be the key.”