Dawgs drop 12th-straight contest in home finale on senior night
By TJ Maxwell
In what could easily be described as a Jekyll and Hyde season, the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs dropped their 12th-consecutive contest, 81-73, to the visiting Belton Tigers on senior night last Friday after reeling off a 22-1 record to begin their 2017-18 campaign.
A late rally allowed the Tigers to swell their lead from three points, 63-60, with 5:31 left in the game to a 70-60 advantage in less than a minute of game time.
The Dawgs managed to trim the lead to seven, 73-66, but the Tigers had an answer every time and came away with the 81-73 win to keep their playoff chances alive.
“The guys came out and competed,” said Copperas Cove head basketball coach Billy White Jr. “We are just in an unfortunate funk at the moment. We are in a rut and trying to get out of it.
“I’m proud of the guys, though. The season didn’t turn out like we wanted it to, but I just keep trying to preach to them about life lessons. Sometimes things in life happen that have a negative effect. The good thing I saw with these kids is that they continued to fight. That’s what I’m trying to get them to take away from this season. Things don’t always go the way you want them or planned them, but you can’t just shut down. You have to continue to fight and that’s what I’m hoping they take away from this season.”
Trailing by just five entering the final eight minutes of action, the Dawgs pulled within one point, 56-54, on a three-pointer by senior Deandre McKinnis.
The Tigers answered with seven unanswered points for a nine-point Tiger advantage, 63-54, with 6:21 left in the game.
A putback by senior post Dontori Lott, a three-pointer by senior Kiron Griffon Jr. and a basket by senior Jordan Ellis accounted for the Belton run.
A three-pointer by Cove senior Neyland Block and another by junior Quinton Ford cut the Belton lead to three, 63-60, before another 7-0 run put the Tigers firmly in control, 70-60 with 4:26 left.
A pair of free throws and a driving basket by Ford pulled Cove within two possessions, 70-64, but the 30th point of the contest from Griffin and a free throw by Lott pushed the Belton lead back to nine where it would stay.
Cove opened the contest on a three-pointer by Block but a steal for a layup by senior Elijah Eddings and a pair of free throws and a three-pointer by Griffin quickly flipped the lead to Belton.
A putback by Cove senior Frank Alvarado, pulled Cove within three before baskets by Lott, freshman Kayden Downs and Griffin helped the Tigers build a 717-7 lead with 1:36 left in the first quarter.
The Dawgs finished on an 8-0 run to pull within two points entering the second quarter, 17-15. Free throws by McKinnis and senior Tyrese Cooley, along with baskets by seniors Daveon Stringer and Jonathan Wolverton, accounted for the run.
Cove kept the lead close with baskets by junior Tyrese Taylor, sophomore Isaiah Sobers and senior Jacob Carter and free throws by senior Jyhlil Rice.
Two more baskets by Taylor and a steal for a layup by Carter gave the Bulldawgs their first lead since the opening minute of the contest, 32-31.
A tradition three-point play by Lott, along with a bucket and a three by Griffin flipped the lead back to Belton before consecutive three-pointers by senior Jarian Kerley and Griffin made it a 39-34 Belton lead with 46.7 left in the half.
A three-pointer by senior Justus Honea made it a two-point contest at the break, 39-37.
Play in the paint by Taylor again helped Cove stay in striking distance, 41-40, before a 6-0 run by Belton opened up a seven-point lead, 47-40. Scores by Lott and Griffin accounted for the Belton run.
Two more scores in the paint by Taylor brought Cove the deficit back within five where it would stay until the final frame.
Griffin finished with 30 points while Lott notched 18 to lead the Tigers.
Taylor had a team-high 15 points for Cove followed by Cooley with nine, Ford (8), Carter (8), Block (8), Honea (6), McKinnis (5), Wolverton (4), Rice (2), Stringer (2), and senior Daveon Thomas (2).
The Dawgs lose nearly their entire roster to graduation. Stringer, Cooley, Block, Rice, Wolverton, Carter, McKinnis, Thomas, Honea and Alvarado will graduate while Taylor and Ford will return for their senior season.
“This is a great group of young men,” said White. “I hope and pray that they go off and continue to do great things and I know they will.
“I look forward to seeing what type of men they grow up to be, but they were great for our program. Unfortunately, we didn’t achieve all the goals we had set, but they still competed and battled for us.”
The disappointing season allowed White to take a look at some of his future players and he liked what he saw from those guys in their limited action.
“These past couple of games, we were able to rotate six or seven of those guys from the junior varsity to the varsity,” he said. “I like what I see. We have a lot of long, athletic kids that play really hard and I’m excited about that. We also have Tyrese Taylor and Quinton Ford returning as well. It’s always nice when you have a big and a wing that are as intelligent as they are.”
The Dawgs look to end their losing streak on the road at Waco Midway tonight in the season finale.