Honea’s 21 points leads Bulldawgs past Jags 70-56 to improve season record to 10-1

By TJ MAXWELL
Cove Leader-Press

After suffering their only loss of the season to Pflugerville just before Thanksgiving, the Copperas Cove Bulldawg basketball team has since reeled off six-consecutive wins to improve to 10-1 on the season.
“These guys have been playing together, the majority of them, since fourth or fifth grade so they want to be successful,” said Copperas Cove head coach Billy White Jr. “The season we had last year, although we did make the playoffs, it wasn’t a successful season in our eyes. 
“They’ve put in the work to be successful this year. That Pflugerville loss did hurt so they’ve been really grinding to make sure we don’t have that feeling again.”
The Dawgs have reeled off six-straight since leading into this weekend’s Dawgpound Showdown at Bulldawg Gymnasium.
Coming off of their championship run at the Marble Falls Subway Classic last weekend, the Bulldawgs continued that streak Tuesday night at home against Austin LBJ in a 70-56 win paced by senior Justus Honea’s 21-point, five-assist performance.
“I knew my team needed me to hit shots in this game,” said Honea. “The last couple of games they haven’t been falling but I knew they needed me in this one so I had to step up.
“Coming off of Pflugerville, we knew we shouldn’t have lost that game. So, we are just coming out stronger than ever and trying to work more on the defensive side of things.” 
The Jaguars jumped out front early on a 9-4 run on a pair of three-pointers by junior Anthony Guyton and sophomore Isiah Rector.
A three from beyond the arc by Honea and a traditional three-point play by senior guard Tyrese Cooley quickly brought Cove back within a score before senior Frank Alvarado knotted to contest at 9-all on a jumper with 3:26 remaining.
A putback by senior Neyland Block, combined with a 14-footer and pair of free throws by Honea, closed out a 15-4 run to close the period with a 19-13 Cove advantage.
The Jags crawled back into the contest climbing as close as three points back on multiple occasions until seven-consecutive points by Honea, including his second three-pointer of the half, gave Cove a 10-point lead with just over two minutes to play in the half.
“If it wasn’t for (my guards) being strong with the ball, then I wouldn’t have my shots” said Honea. “They get it down the floor fast enough that I get my shots because the defense can’t get back fast enough.”
Plays by LBJ sophomore Jordan Teal cut into the Cove lead but a three by Alvarado and a bucket by senior Daveon Stringer on an assist by Cooley gave the Bulldawgs a 39-29 halftime lead. 
A pair of inbound assists by Honea to Alvarado and senior Jhylil Rice helped Cove push their lead to 12, 43-31, while plays by Block and senior post Daveon Thomas helped keep that lead.
The Jags cut the lead to single digits on plays in the paint by senior Shasirae Harvey and a three-pointer by junior Brian Batts to close the third period 50-41.
A free throw by Batts cut the Cove lead to eight before the third three of the game by Honea and a steal for a layup by Cooley ballooned the Bulldawgs’ lead to 13, 55-42.
The Dawgs finished the contest on 15-12 run mostly from the charity stripe, paced by Cooley’s 9 for 12 free throws down the stretch. Block added 2 for 4 free throws while Rice and Stringer each added field goals. 
Batts scores 11 of the Jaguars 14 points down the stretch for a team-high 19 points.
Cooley added 15 points to Honea’s 21 and Block chipped in 14 to lead the Bulldawgs. Alvarado (7), Rice (5), Stringer (4), junior Tyrese Taylor (3) and Thomas (1) closed out the Cove scoring.
Senior Kevyon Tyler followed Batts with 10 for the Jaguars, followed by Teal (9) and Guyton (6). Coach White knows his versatility scoring and leading the offense is a key factor in the teams’ early success. The team has had a different scoring leader in almost every game during the streak.
“It’s very vital to our success,” he said. “We have multiple guys that can do a lot of things so they can’t key on any one guy because any guy can hurt you at any particular time. 
That goes for the guard play as well.
“With Neyland, Cooley and Daveon, those guys are very interchangeable,” said White. “The other thing they do is the ball doesn’t stick a whole lot and that really helps us get into the early offense.”
White wants to see more of the same on offense and a little more intensity on defense as the team hosts the 2nd annual Dawgpound Showdown this weekend.
 “We’ve just got to stay the course,” said White. “We’ve got to continue to work and grind and do the things we’ve done to get us to this point. The beauty of it is, we have 10 seniors on this squad so these guys have been through it before and they know what to expect. It’s just about making sure we’re healthy going forward.
“One thing for sure is we have to make sure we rebound the basketball on the defensive end a lot better than what we did tonight. With our district as athletic as they are, they’re going to crash the glass. We have to make sure we don’t give them second and third chance opportunities.”
Honea agreed.
“We’re getting better (on defense) but we can get more done,” he said. “We have just got to pick it up in the half court but in the full court, we’re right where we want to be.”
The Dawgs played Waco High and Round Rock Cedar Ridge on the opening day of the tournament (results not known as of press time) and they face Medina valley at 9 a.m. this morning with a 5:20 p.m. tipoff against Australia’s Northern Territory before the three-point and dunk contest scheduled for 7 p.m. Cove will finish off the tournament Saturday with a 12:20 p.m. game against Round Rock Stony Point.

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