Cove’s fourth quarter rally comes up short at no. 13 Ellison

By TJ MAXWELL
Cove Leader-Press

The high-powered Copperas Cove offense was held in check by the no.13-ranked Ellison Eagles’ defense despite a late rally by the Bulldawgs that was nearly sent the game into overtime on a pair of missed treys in their District 8-6A contest Tuesday night at Ellison High School.
The Eagles surrendered a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and the Dawgs were a missed three from sending the game into extra minutes in the 68-65 loss.
“I’m proud of my guys and I’m proud of the fight that they had, especially in the second half,” said Copperas Cove head basketball coach Billy White Jr. “We had a chance right there at the end and that’s all you can ask for.
“(Ellison is) a good team. They are ranked in the state for a reason and we knew that coming in. If you take away those second chance opportunities then it gives us a better shot at it.”
Trailing by 13 points heading into the final frame, the Dawgs slowly began to chip away at the Eagles’ lead.
A pair of free throws by senior Jyhlil Rice and a putback by junior Quinton Ford cut the Ellison lead to single-digits, 57-48 to start the fourth quarter and a play in the paint by junior Tyrese Taylor on the assist by senior Justus Honea made it a seven-point contest, 57-50, with 6:34 left in the game.
A huge dunk by Ellison senior Elijah Moleon extended the Ellison lead back to nine, 59-50, with 5:31 to play.
Some plays in the paint by the Bulldawgs resulted in three-consecutive trips to the free throw line by the Bulldawgs but they were only able to convert three of the six shots for a 59-53 Ellison lead with 5:10 remaining. 
The Eagles again extended their lead with a driving bucket by junior Amir Davis for a 61-53 Eagles’ lead before a three-pointer by senior Tyrese Cooley and a bucket in the paint by Taylor made it a three-point contest, 61-58, with 4:08 left in the game.
Three of four made free throws by Ellison senior Casey Armour made it a two-score contest, 64-58, with 2:35 remaining but Cove senior Neyland Block gain made it a one-score contest, 64-61, with a traditional three-point play.
Two free throws by senior Marvin Caines gave the Eagles a five-point cushion with 1:48 left before a couple big plays by the Dawgs made it a one-point game, 66-65, with under a minute to play.
Ford was left alone on the wing a drove on for a two-handed dunk to pull cove back within three before a steal by Cooley resulted in another Ford basket for the 66-65 score.
A pair free throws by Armour pushed the Eagle’s lead back to three and after missed free throws by both teams, the Dawgs had the ball back on their end of the court with 10.3 seconds left.
The Dawgs hoisted up a couple three-pointers by Honea and Block but neither could find net and Ellison held on for the 68-65 win.
“I thought we battled,” said White. “I thought it was a good game and that’s what you expect in this district. I think the kids came out a little slow in the first half but they came out in the second half and made some plays, defended well, and rebounded the ball better. That was the main thing that cost us in that first half. We gave up way too many second and third opportunities. In the second half we did a much better job of limiting them to one shot.”
The Bulldawgs missed five of their first six field goal attempts, including four three-point attempts to start the game and quickly fell into a 7-2 hole on the way to a 14-9 first quarter score.
A pair of free throws by Taylor kept the Dawgs close at 7-4 before a trey by Ellison junior Chandler Sutton opened up a 10-4 lead.
A long two by Ford and a three-point basket by Block made it a one-point game, 10-9 before Armour rebounded his own miss on and ‘and one’ opportunity and put it back for a 14-9 Ellison lead after one.
The Eagles quickly ballooned that lead to 11, 20-9, with a three from beyond the arc by senior Kadarius Green and a converted ‘and one’ opportunity by Armour.
A pair of free throws by Cove senior Daveon Thomas temporarily halted the Eagles’ run but another ‘and one’ by Armour pushed the Ellison lead to 12, 23-11, with 5:15 left in the first half.
A putback by Taylor pulled Cove back within 10 before consecutive buckets by Ellison sophomore Shamir Bogues and two free throws by Green made it a 16-point Ellison lead, 29-13, with 5:15 left.
A traditional three-point play by Cooley then sparked a 9-0 run by the Bulldawgs to make it a seven-point game, 29-22, with 2:06 left but the Eagles finished the half on a 5-1 run for a 34-23 lead and the break.
“They both kept it close for us in that first half,” White said of the play by the two Tyreses. “Tyrese Taylor had a couple big buckets down there and Tyrese Cooley really came up big for us scoring like six in that second quarter to keep it where it was just and 11-point game. Taylor was definitely a force in the second half. Unfortunately, he got two double fouls that kind of took him out of that but that’s just how it goes.” 
A trey by Cooley on the Block assist cut the Ellison lead to single digits to start the third period by Green answered right back with a three for the Eagles to maintain the 11-point lead.
The fourth ‘and one’ opportunity for Armour and the third successful one, along with a putback by Davis, opened the Ellison lead back to 16, 42-26, with just over six minutes to play in the third.
A converted ‘and one’ by Cove’s Thomas along with another bucket by Thomas and 1 for 2 free throws by Block made it a 12-point contest before the first of two big dunks for Moleon made it 46-32.
A floater by Cooley and a driving bucket by Ford kept the Eagles from pulling away and a trey by Block made it a 10-point Ellison lead, 50-40, with 1:32 left.
Armour’s fifth ‘and one’ trip gave Ellison the 13-point lead they would carry into the final frame.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys and how they battled,” said White. “This is only the second district game. We have 12 more to go so we’ll just go back to the practice floor, regroup and get ready for a tough Shoemaker team on Friday.”
The Bulldawgs missed an uncharacteristic 12 free throws in the loss. They were 7 for 10 in the first half but just converted 12 of 21 in the second half.
“We haven’t shot that poorly from the free throw line all season I think,” said White. “I don’t know the exact count but I know we missed 12 at one point and we lose by three so that’s part of the story right there.”
Armour had a game-high 21 points to lead the Eagles with Green (17), Sutton (8) and Moleon (8) adding to the Eagles’ tally. Also contributing for the Eagles were Davis (6), Bogues (4) and Caines (4).
Cooley led the Bulldawgs with 15 points, followed by Ford (13), Block (12), Taylor (12), Thomas (7), Rice (4) and senior Daveon Stringer (2).
The Dawgs host Shoemaker tonight with the junior varsity beginning at 5:30 and the varsity to follow.

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