BLOCKED BY HORNS
By TJ MAXWELL
GLEN ROSE - The Longhorns of Cedar Hill showed why they were the no. 2 ranked team in the state but the Bulldawgs of Copperas Cove showed fans promise of the future during the bi-district round of the Region I-6A UIL Boys State Basketball Championships Tuesday at Tiger Arena in Glen Rose.
The Bulldawgs clawed and scratched to stay close in the first half against the long, tall and quick Longhorns but spurts of 10-2 in the first quarter, 11-1 in the second quarter and 12-2 in the third allowed the top-ranked Longhorns to build a 23-point lead midway through the third on their way to an 81-55 victory.
“I was really proud of our guys for coming out here and fighting, especially giving up size and some speed here and there,” said Copperas Cove head coach Billy White Jr. “I thought our guys fought and competed the entire time. You take those few runs out and it’s a total different ball game. A lot of those runs came when they got second and third-chance shots. Those are the times when it does come down to size and things of that nature but I was really proud of our guys’ effort tonight. I was proud of the energy and I thought we came out and fought.”
The Bulldawgs attacked the Longhorns from the opening horn but eight first-half blocks by the lengthy Longhorns, including three each by 6 feet, 5 inch forward Daniel Odufuwa and 6-feet-10 post Zack Simmons, helped build a 14-point lead in the first half.
“They were real long, real athletic and real quick so they are on you and smothering you and, in some of those situations, we had our smaller guards and it’s tough for them to see over,” said White. “They defended really well and, once you get by those fast long guards up front, you have the 6-10 guy waiting in the back. I don’t know how many blocks they had, but they had eight at the half. They are a great defensive team and that’s why I was even more proud of my guys for battling.”
Driving buckets by 6-feet-7 junior Jordan Phillips, a three-pointer by senior guard Bruce Simmons and three Cove turnovers helped the Longhorns build a 10-2 advantage before the Bulldawgs settled down and went point for point with Cedar Hill to end the period trailing 16-8.
Drives by juniors Jyhlil Rice and Tyrese Cooley cut the Longhorn lead to six, 12-6, before a putback by Cedar Hill’s Odufuwa and Cove’s Rice finished the first quarter scoring.
The Longhorns quickly pushed their lead to 12, 22-10, to begin the second period on plays in the paint by Zack Simmons and a three-pointer by senior Russhard Cruickshank. A driving score by sophomore Quinton Ford accounted for the lone Cove bucket in the run.
A putback by 6-feet-7 sophomore Tyrese Taylor and two free throws by senior Dahmir Pearson helped Cove cut the Cedar Hill lead back to single digits, 22-14, before the 11-1 run by the Longhorns to build a 33-15 lead, including nine consecutive points bookended by a trey and two free throws by Phillips.
“We had some times where the ball didn’t fall for us and we gave up some second-chance shots,” said White. “We would have an opportunity for a steal then we would turn it back over and they would hit a three on the other end.”
Aggressive drives by Cooley and Ford sent them to the free throw lines three consecutive times for 6 of 6 free throws for a 6-0 Cove run in just 30 seconds of game clock.
A hanging jumper by Phillips ended the first-half scoring for the 35-21 Longhorn lead.
A three-pointer by Cove’s Ford answered a spot up jumper by Cedar Hill’s Cruickshank to begin the second half before the 12-2 run broke open the game for the Longhorns, 49-26, with just over four minutes left in the period. Five points each by Cruickshank and Zack Simmons led the way for the Horns.
The Bulldawgs responded with a 15-7 run to get back in the game, 55-41 with just seconds left in the period. A driving bucket by Ford and 1 for 2 free throws by Ford started the Cove run while 2 for 2 free throws and an inbound bucket by Pearson, 2 for 2 free throws by Cooley and a four-point trip down court by Rice on a putback of a missed ‘and 1’ opportunity cut the Cedar Hill lead to 53-39.
“We have some talented kids as well,” said White. They may be a little bigger and a little faster but our guys can play as well and you’re not just going to run over us. If you take those runs away, it’s a different ball game. We’ve just got to limit our mistakes and we’ve got to convert and capitalize off of their turnovers. They are the No. 2 team in the state for a reason and you can’t make mistakes like that against good teams.”
Buckets by Cedar Hill junior Ray Pugh and senior D’Rell Roberts sandwiched a putback by Cove’s Pearson to end the third with a 57-41 score.
Three successful trips to the free throw line by Cove’s Pearson paired with a putback and 2 for 2 free throws by Cooley kept the deficit hovering under 20 points until three consecutive buckets by Cedar Hill put the game away with a 23-point lead.
The Bulldawgs 18-16 had four players in double figures compared to just three for the Longhorns. However, the Longhorns had 10 other players notch scores while Cove had just two others.
The senior Pearson led the Bulldawgs with 14 points and snagged seven rebounds while juniors Rice and Cooley chipped in 12 points each and the sophomore Ford added 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Taylor added four points and latecomer senior Tyson Curry scored a bucket off the bench as time expired.
Phillips led the Longhorns with 16 points followed by Zack Simmons’ doubledouble (13 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks), Cruickshank (12), B. Simmons (7), Xavier Whitaker (7), Pugh (6), Cameron Moore (4) and Odufuwa (4). LaQuan Butler, Roberts, Shaysten Cornish, Zachari Franklin, Darrel Willis, and Carlos Johnson each added two points.
The Dawgs lose four seniors (Pearson, Jordan Govan, Caleb Moore and Curry) to graduation but return 10 others with valuable varsity experience. Pearson and Govan were regulars in the rotation where Moore and Curry came off the bench.
“They are just a great group of guys,” White said of his seniors. “They work hard day in and day out. Jordan Govan and Caleb Moore are guys that don’t play a whole lot but they come in to practice everyday and give everything they’ve got. It’s unbelievable the character those guys have. Tyson Curry came on late for us. He came out for basketball late in his senior season. He’s a great kid and works hard for us.
“Dahmir Pearson, we’ve watched him for three years bleed and pour his heart and soul on this court. He knows one way to play and that’s what he does everyday. Whether it’s practice, scrimmage, a game or a pick up game; that’s how he plays. You can’t help but respect and love a kid that’s going to give his blood, sweat and tears to the game. That’s what he does.”
For those returning (Ford, Cooley, Rice, junior Neyland Block, junior Jonathan Wolverton, junior Jacob Carter, junior Daveon Thomas, junior Justus Honea and junior Frank Alvarado), White feels the brutal 8-6A district slate and battling the No. 2 team in Texas was a great growing tool for his team.
“It’s great to be in a situation where 10 of our 14 players are returning,” said White. “We’ve got to go to work, though.. We have guys that have experience now. We’ve got a lot of juniors where this is their first time playing varsity ball. A lot of that time they spent adjusting on how to play varsity ball. The way our district is, almost every game seems like a playoff game or they have playoff implications. Being able to play a talented team like we played tonight and all the stuff that comes along with making the playoffs was big for them. Now, they have a taste of it and they have that experience.”
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