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State tournament bid in first year gives Alcovy boys high hopes

COVINGTON - Alcovy's Worrel Clahar and Jordan Butts will have a lot of help as the Tigers begin their quest for a Region 8-AAAA championship and beyond.

Besides last year's top players, Cody Edwards and Kevin Boyle have also made tremendous strides to get their game to the next level.

"People are going to be surprised of their capabilities. Kevin Boyle's really stepped his game up. He's a lot stronger, a little bigger, more confident and more physical," Tigers head coach Eugene Brown said. "A lot of guys have bought into what we're trying to do, and they've really taken their game to another level."

Alcovy finished its inaugural season with a 15-15 record and one win away from a region championship. Alcovy's trip to the Class AAAA state playoffs was cut short by a 63-50 loss to Pebblebrook.

Aside from wanting to take the region crown, the Tigers also want to go further into the state tournament as well as finish the season undefeated.

This season, the Tigers are ready to improve on what they did last year without forgetting what it took to get them there.

"We worked hard in the offseason. We had more practices and games during the summer, and we spent more time in the weight room," Brown said. "We tried to do a little more in every aspect of the program than we did last year, so we can ensure that we weren't sitting back resting on their laurels of what we accomplished last year."

Helping Alcovy's chase to the next step is the fact that the Tigers are returning 12 of the 16 players from last season. Of the 12, five are seniors and five are juniors. Also helping is a JV program that has excelled.

"The guys coming up from JV are ready to step right in, and they're pushing some of the guys that played last year. It's a real competitive situation. Last year, we had six or seven guys that we felt comfortable with doing everything we had in the package. This year we probably have 12 or 13 guys, so we can really do a lot more," Brown said.

Returning for another season wearing black and gold are seniors Ashad Williams, Isaiah Honeysucker and Patrick Fuller, juniors Brad Williams, Greg Smith and Tyrell Hazel and sophomores Joshua Peters and Tavon Cook.

The Tigers will get ready for subregion play with a difficult schedule prior to the Jan. 8 game against defending region champion Cedar Shoals.

Their first eight games include Loganville, who made it to the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs, and Newton, who made it to the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

They will also play Berkmar, which is coached by former Eastside coach Tommy McWhorter, and McNair, which is coached by former Rockdale girls coach Jimmy Fields. The game against McNair will be played at Philips Arena prior to a game between the Atlanta Hawks and Utah Jazz.

The Tigers will also play against 18 of the best teams in the Southeast in the Peach State Classic.

"I've always been in the mind-set that playing the tougher games early is going to prepare you for later on in the season when you get to region. I feel that if we go out and play different styles of basketball teams and different levels of competition similar or above ours it's just going to help us get better down the stretch," Brown said. "When we get to our region after Christmas break, the kids have seen everything they could possibly see, so it's not a matter of being in awe of anybody or size-wise, athleticism or basketball ability, we've already seen all of that. We're not as shell-shocked when we play our region because we've seen some of the better teams in the state."

Brown likes his chances of achieving some, if not all, of their goals. He feels that he has a team that can challenge anyone in the state.

"We don't have a 6-10, 6-11 guy, but not too many teams do. I think we pretty much have everything we need. We have a strong backcourt, athletic wings and post guys that can get it done. We're not a perfect team by any means, but we've got all the components to be successful," Brown said. "It's not like I'm going to bed at night wishing we had this or that. I look around at other teams we played over the summer, and we can compete with anybody that we step on the court with."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com

SideBar: At a glance

Team: Alcovy boys basketball

Head coach: Eugene Brown

Last year's record: 15-15

First game: 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Cedar Grove