Lady Dawgs run away from Leander in home-opener
By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs’ basketball team outscored the Leander Lady Lions in each of the four quarters of their 58-34 win in their regular season home opener Tuesday night at Bulldawg Gymnasium.
Cove used a smothering defense in the opening quarter and the sharpshooting of senior guards Livonna Wallace and Madisen “MJ” Honea in the second to open a 32-18 halftime lead and never let up.
“To get my and our first win on our and my home court was amazing,” said first-year Copperas Cove head girls’ basketball coach Tiffney Barnes-Graham. “I still think we’ve got some things to work on. I’m not completely satisfied because I know our potential and what we’re capable of. It’s just mental. We’ve got to start making better decisions.”
After Leander took the lead early on 1 for 2 free throws and a putback by Payton Smith, the Lady Dawgs finished the quarter on a 9-1 run to take an 11-4 lead after one quarter of action.
The first of four three-pointers by Wallace gave Cove the lead 5-3 while a putback by senior Kaysha McCloud and free throws by McCloud, Wallace and junior A’Zariah “AZ” Knotts. Closed out the scoring for Cove in the first quarter.
Both teams exchanged three-pointers to start the second quarter with Leander’s Natalie Kerlick hit two from outside the arc while Honea and Wallace connected for Cove for a 17-10 Lady Dawgs’ lead.
A basket by Knotts and another three by Wallace pushed Cove’s lead to 12, 22-10 with 4:43 left in the first half.
A basket by Leander’s Catherine Angule-Oviedo cut the lead back to single digits but another three by Honea, two free throws by McCloud and a traditional three-point play by Wallace helped the Lady Dawgs build a 16-point lead, 30-14, with 2:09 left.
A three-pointer by Isabella Leai and a free throw by Angule-Oviedo closed the first-half scoring by Leander while a pair of free throws by McCloud closed the half for Cove.
A pair of three-pointers and a free throw by Honea’ along with free throws by McCloud and Wallace pushed the Lady Dawgs’ lead to 19, 39-20. Three-pointers from Honea and sophomore guard Jordan McGhee and a basket by Knotts gave Cove their largest lead of the night 47-20.
A pair of free throws by Smith and a basket by Angule-Oviedo for the Lady Lions closed the gap to 24, 48-24, heading into the final frame.
Baskets by Angule-Oviedo and free throws by Leai, Kerlick, Parker Bradley and Paige Ephlin helped Leander pull within 21, 55-34, with 2:02 left in the game.
Free throws by senior guard Jaaliyah Segrest and senior post Leah Powell closed out the scoring for Cove for the 58-34 final score.
Despite holding the Lady Lions to just 34 points, Barnes-Graham feels her team could have played better on the defensive side.
“I don’t think we did very well defensively,” she said. “We’re more capable that what we showed today.”
The 15 missed free throws are also a concern for Barnes-Graham.
“They have to be constantly reminded to slow down and take a deep breath,” she said. “Being our first home game and people were out, we got excited and rushed everything.”
Wallace led the scoring for Cove with 19 points. She also had six rebounds, three steals and two assists.
“We need that,” Barnes-Graham said of Wallace’s performance. “Her teammates need to see that so they can trust her, and she needs that for her confidence.”
Honea added 16 points, four assists and three steals. McCloud notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds and had five steals while Knotts finished with seven points, eight rebounds and two steals.
The Lady Dawgs (2-0) are currently hosting the Bush’s Classic where they faced Brenham and Del Valle to open the tournament yesterday (results not available at press time). They begin action today against Manor with a 1:30 p.m. tip-off time before closing pool play against Austin Anderson at 6 p.m.
“I just want to see us get better and get more confidence within ourselves,” Barnes-Graham said about her team’s play in the tournament. “I think we’re still on the edge and afraid to take chances. I think we’ll get a little more comfortable with this tournament and just grow as a team.”
The Copperas Cove boys close out Friday action as they host Pflugerville Connally in their home opener with a 7:30 p.m. tip-off time.
The finals will begin at 8 a.m. with the title game set for 12:30 p.m.