Cove’s comeback bid falls short against Midway
By TJ MAXWELL
The Bulldawgs desperately needed to take someone out among the leaders of District 12-6A to keep in the running for the final playoff spot. They nearly pulled that off against formerly state-ranked Waco Midway when a late driving basket by junior Lakyi Ellison and a three-pointer by senior Isiah Sobers pulled them within a point with 22.6 seconds remaining.
However, a missed layup by the Dawgs and a pair of free throws by Midway’s 6-6 senior Godsgift Ezedinma to complete his game-high 24-point night, closed the door on the Bulldawgs’ rally.
A three-pointer from near half-court by Ellison ricocheted off the rim as the buzzer sounded in the 58-55 Midway win.
“I can’t ask for my kids to battle much harder than that,” said Copperas Cove boys’ head basketball coach Travis Boyce Jr. “We had a couple possessions here and there that we’d obviously love to get back, but that’s part of basketball.
“Hats off to Midway. That is a heck of a team. I obviously would’ve liked to be on the other side of the column tonight, but that happens.”
The last three quarters were virtually even between the two squads in the back and forth battle but a hot start, paced by seven points and a pair of blocks by Ezedinma and two three-pointers by senior CJ Calhoun, helped the Panthers take an eight-point advantage early in the second quarter.
Baskets by Ellison senior Ahmad Pierce and senior Alonnie Carter; along with the first of three first-half three-pointers by Pierce; kept Cove within a score 12-9 before a traditional three-point play by Ezedinma opened up a six-point lead.
A three by Calhoun pushed the Panthers lead to eight to open the second quarter.
A three-pointer by Pierce and a basket by senior Jerome Gaillard again made it a three-point contest, 18-15, before an 8-2 run by the Panthers pushed their lead to nine, 26-17, with time winding down in the half.
Another three-pointer by Pierce closed the gap to six, 26-20, at the break.
Baskets by Cove’s Pierce and Ellison, coupled with a free throw by Sobers kept the Dawgs within striking distance, 28-25, but a 12-4 run by the Panthers opened the largest lead of the contest of 11, 40-29. Baskets by Ezedinma, sophomore Caden Powell and a three-point basket each from senior Anthony Scott and Ezedinma accounted for the Panthers’ run.
The Bulldawgs then embarked on an 11-2 run of their own to cut the Panthers’ lead to just two, 42-40, to open the final quarter of action. A free throw and a three-pointer by freshman Warren Fleming started the run before a basket by Pierce and a buzzer-beater by junior Jon McDowell closed the third and a three by senior Deayra Corbin opened the fourth.
Midway’s Calhoun answered with his third trey of the game before a three by senior Jordan Byers put the Panthers back in control, 49-42.
A traditional three-point play by Cove’s Pierce slowed the Panthers’ momentum but Scott answered back with a three-point play and Ezedinma scored on an alley oop from senior Jordan Simmons for a nine-point, 54-45 Midway lead.
The Bulldawgs responded with a 10-2 run to pull within a point, 56-55, on baskets by Ellison, a free throw trip by Ellison and a trey by Sobers but that was a s close as they would get in the 58-55 final.
“There are some plays I know our guys would love to have back,” said Boyce. “Even me as a coach there were some calls that I would love to have back, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
Pierce finished with 18 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal to lead the Bulldawgs followed by Ellison (12 pts, 3 rebs), Sobers (6 pts, 4 rebs), (4 pts, 6 rebs, 3 assts), Fleming (4 pts, 3 rebs, asst), Gaillard (4 pts, 2 rebs, asst), Corbin (3 pts, 2 assts), senior Nisher Marks (2 pts, reb), and Carter (2 pts, reb).
Ezedinma finished with a game-high 24 points, 8 rebounds and five blocks to lead Midway followed by Scott (13 pts, 3 rebs, 2 assts), Calhoun ( 11 pts, 3 assts) Byers (6 pts, 4 rebs), Simmons (2 pts, 2 rebs), and Powell (2 points, 2 rebs).
The freshmen defeated Midway 70-54 and the JV fell to Midway 58-53.
Cove (17-13, 4-7 in District 12-6A) trails Shoemaker (5-6), Harker Heights (5-6) and Belton (4-6) for the fourth and final playoff spot behind No. 4 Ellison (11-0), Midway (8-2) and Temple (7-3).
The Bulldawgs enjoy a bye tonight before returning to action at Harker Heights on Tuesday with their first of five remaining regular season games. The Dawgs finish the season at home against Shoemaker, on the road at Temple, at home against Belton and their home finale against Killeen.
“We’ll regroup,” said Boyce. “We’re off on Friday so we’ll get some rest, get a couple kids back that have been missing and get ready to take care of Harker Heights on the road Tuesday.”