Dawgs sweep host tournament; improve to 15-1 on season
By TJ MAXWELL
Defensive intensity and offensive versatility has led the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs to their best record in recent memory at 15-1 as they swept their host tournament for the second tournament sweep of the season, culminating in Saturday’s dominant win over Round Rock Stony Point in the final game of the annual Dawgpound Showdown.
The Dawgs’ defense held Stony Point to just 23 first-half points and that defense helped spark the 52 points posted by the offense on their way to an 84-57 win to cap the 2nd annual Showdown Saturday at Bulldawg Gymnasium.
“I definitely saw what I wanted, especially in the last game,” said Copperas Cove head basketball coach Billy White Jr. “They came out ready to play. We had a lot of things on the defensive end that we’ve been talking about and they got that done today.
“We held them to (23 points) in the first half and that’s one of the things we’re working on. We’re going to be able to score the basketball, we’ve just got to make sure that we can defend. That’s something we’re focused on and I was really proud of them doing that today.”
After giving up the opening basket to Stony Point’s Taylan Artis, the Dawgs scored 12 unanswered points as part of a 22-5 run.
A three-pointer by senior Justus Honea on an assist by senior Tyrese Cooley started the run and a Honea trey and a 12-foot jumper by senior Jyhlil Rice capped the run.
A steal by senior Neyland Block led to a layup by Rice for the 5-2 Cove lead before a putback by Block, a bucket by junior Tyrese Taylor and another Honea three made it a 12-2 contest.
A three-pointer by Stony Point’s Omar Smart temporarily halted the Dawgs offensive onslaught but free throws by block and four-consecutive buckets by Rice, aided by blocks from Taylor and Block, gave the Dawgs a 22-7 advantage.
Hustle plays on defense, paced by Rice, helped set up the Cove offense in the run.
“Jy has been doing that for three years now,” said White. “Jy is one of those guys that I love having on my team because he gives you everything he has every time he steps on that court. Today, he gave us everything he had and then some. I’m really proud of the effort he’s put in and the work he’s doing.
“The only thing that’s bad about it is he’s a senior and I only have this season left with him. I’m glad he’s on my team.”
Driving buckets by Smart and a three-pointer by Quaylan Lomax helped the Tigers cut the lead to eight, 22-14, but nine unanswered points by the Dawgs to close the quarter made it a 31-14 contest after one quarter.
A steal for a bucket and a foul by Rice, a steal by Block that resulted in 1 for 2 free throws by senior Frank Alvarado, a drive by senior Jacob Carter and a three-pointer at the buzzer by senior Daveon Stringer accounted for the Dawgs’ scoring.
The Dawgs’ defense then took control for the rest of the half, holding the Tigers to just nine points in the second quarter while posting 21 points of their own for 1 29-point lead at half time.
The second frame began much as the first as Stony Point struck first on a pair of free throws by Lomax before Honea answered with a three-pointer and Honea fed Rice on an inbound play for a 36-16 Cove lead.
A three by Artis and four points from Smart narrowed the gap but steals by Block and Rice, along with putbacks by Carter and Block, pushed Cove’s lead to 23, 46-23, with just over a minute left in the half.
A three-pointer by Carter and a foul resulting in three made free throws by Honea closed out the Cove scoring and the period 52-23.
“It’s contagious when anybody comes out with a lot of energy,” said Rice. “We score early and get and-ones. When everybody is up and has good energy levels we’re hitting shots and everybody is working on defense. That’s how we extend the leads like this to 30 and 40 points.”
A full court press by the Tigers helped them narrow the gap with a 13-4 run to start the second half, capped by a steal and dunk by Deshawn Jackson and a traditional three-point play by Jackson.
The Dawgs answered with their second 12-0 run of the day to build a 33-point lead, 68-35 with 1:27 left in the third.
Coach White likes how his team fought through the press and took back control.
“It’s definitely valuable,” White said of breaking the press. “The main problem we were having was just not getting in the right spots that we needed to get in to. Once we get in those spots and take care of business then we’re fine. Our guys understand how to pass and where to pass so they just have to make sure they’re in those spots so the defenders can’t get there.”
A pair of buckets by senior Daveon Thomas; along with free throws by Block, Rice and Carter; accounted for the Cove scoring.
A pair of three by Lomax and Myron Machado cut the lead to 27, 68-41, before a long two by Alvarado made it a 70-41 contest entering the final frame.
Taylor then got busy for the Dawgs with eight points, a block and two offensive boards in the first 2:50 of the period for a 37-point Cove advantage.
A 10-run by Stony Point, including a pair of threes by Andre Mancilla and Tyler Heltzel, cut the lead to 27.
A bucket by Cove senior Deandre McKinnis, two free throws by Alvarado and a putback by Carter closed out the scoring for Cove.
Rice feels like the team’s maturity and focus is key to their success thus far.
“It’s very important,” he said. “Before the games we are all focused. We are not messing around like when we were freshman. We’re all focused, we’re all together and we all have the experience of varsity games and that really helps.”
Rice feels like the team can keep rolling when District 8-6A action begins in January.
“I feel, like if we come to play, we can beat any team,” he said. “We just need to always come in with the same energy levels and, when someone makes a mistake we need to help them out and work as one team.”
Rice finished with 24 points to lead the Cove scoring, along with five rebounds and two steals while Carter added 13 points and four rebounds; Honea added 12 points, two rebounds and two assists; Taylor added 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks and Block added nine points, six rebounds, three steals, three assists and a block.
Also scoring for Cove were Alvarado (5), Thomas (4), Stringer (3), McKinnis (2) and Cooley (2). Cooley also led the team in assists with five.
Smart (13) and Jackson (9) led the Tigers with scoring while Lomax, Heltzel and Machado added six points each. Jackson also had eight rebounds and two steals.
The Dawgs close out their non-district schedule at home against Temple at 1 p.m. Thursday and the Mike Smith Classic tournament in Victoria Dec 28-30. Cove opens district play Tuesday, Jan. 2 at no. 19 (TABC) Killeen Ellison.