It is the time in the girls’ basketball season when wins and losses do not matter much, but player improvement and developing team chemistry certainly do.

Covington hosted North Putnam, fell behind early, bounced back to take a lead but then struggled in the fourth quarter, falling to the Cougars 43-33.

The visitors jumped out to a 5-0 as the Trojans could not find the scoreboard until Reese Noble hit a three-pointer at the 5:49 mark.

The Cougars outscored Covington 7-4 in the remainder of the first period as the only points for the home team came from a fast-break lay-up by Chloe Morris and another lay-up by Noble off a pass from Hope Linville.

Free throws were a problem for Covington all night as they finished 3-for-14 from the charity stripe and that issue showed itself at the start of the second quarter when they missed three of four around a lay-up by Linville with the one make coming from Abby Swaney.

After a bucket by the visitors made it 14-10, Covington had a chance to take the lead as Briley Peyton fed Noble for a lay-up for a 14-12 score, but the Trojans missed all three of their free throw chances around that basket and then the Cougars scored twice to lead 18-12 at the half.

“I think we got tired there in the second quarter and we did the same in the fourth,” Travis Brown, the Trojan head coach said. “We need to get into better condition than we are in right now.”

It was Noble who got things going for Covington to start the third quarter by hitting a trey and then Morris added a basket to pull the hosts within a point at 18-17.

North Putnam responded with a three-pointer, but Shiann Haymaker got a putback and Noble hit another trey to give Covington their first lead of the night, 22-21, at the 5:03 mark of the third quarter.

Morris pushed the lead up to three by draining two of the three free throws made by the Trojans on the night and then the two teams traded baskets with Haymaker hitting a jumper off a pass from Madison Lawson for a 26-23 score.

The visitors then regained the lead by hitting a pair of three-pointers around another Haymaker basket that made it 31-28 going into the fourth quarter.

The first three minutes of the final period saw the score remain the same as both teams had chances but could not find the basket.

Then the Cougars got hot, hitting two shots from the floor and two free throws in 39 seconds to take a 37-28 lead.

Covington had another chance from the line, but missed the front end of a one-and-one and North Putnam responded with another basket.

It was not until there were three minutes left in the contest before the Trojans put more points on the board and those came on a driving lay-up by Haymaker that only closed the gap to 39-30.

The final two minutes saw both teams miss numerous times from the free throw line with the Cougars scoring four total points while Covington added three more on a long jumper by Peyton that made the final score 43-33.

“We only scored five points in the second period and five in the fourth,” Brown pointed out and then added, “It shows how we got tired at the end of both halves.”

The coach said he would be addressing the issue of conditioning in the upcoming days, but said he still saw things he liked.

“We played better than in our first game and I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Brown said. “We haven’t had all our players at any of our practices and some of our players have only had a few because they were on the volleyball team that won the sectional.”

He continued, “We ran our half-court offense pretty well and got the shots we wanted, but they just wouldn’t go in. However, our heart and effort are in the right place so we’ll get better once we get a few more games and some more practice.”