Last-second Wildcat three-pointer sinks Dawgs 62-58

By TJ MAXWELL

Cove Leader-Press

 

The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs and Temple Wildcats exchanged blows in a back-and-forth District 12-6A clash Friday night at Bulldawg Gymnasium, but a dagger from three-point range by Temple senior Elcid Smith with five seconds left in the contest that cemented the 62-58 win for the Wildcats.

Second-chance opportunities, spearheaded by TCU football signee Quentin Johnston, resulted in points for the Wildcats and helped stave off a Bulldawg comeback.

“They made some big plays with that towards the end as well where they spread us out, let the guard penetrate, then they dropped it down to a big player,” Copperas Cove boys’ head basketball coach Travis Boyce Jr said in a post-game interview. That was the advantage that they had and the type of players we had. If we can take some of those mental mistakes out that we had early in the game, we’re not put in the situation where we’re spread out and having to guard them. They would’ve had to play a different style.”

It was anyone’s contest heading into the final quarter with the Wildcats nursing a two-point lead, 47-45.

The Bulldawgs took a 50-49 lead after Johnston was called for a goaltending on a shot attempt by Cove junior guard Alonnie Carter and a technical foul against Johnston resulted in 1 for 2 frees throws by Cove senior guard Isaiah Baker with 6:45 left in the game. However, one of Johnston’s game-high 12 rebounds resulted in a tip in for the Cats and a traditional three-point play by senior J’Don Garcia made it a 54-50 Temple lead with 5:56 left. 

A three-pointer by senior Ahmad Pierce pulled the Bulldawgs back within a point, but another Johnston offensive rebound after two missed free throw attempts by Temple sophomore Leon Hudson pushed Temple’s lead back to three, 56-53.

A basket by Pierce and 1 for 2 free throws by Cove junior Lakyi Ellison tied the game at 56-all with 3:26 left in the game.

After a basket by Temple senior Jaiden Pate put the Wildcats in front by two with just over a minute remaining, a steal for a layup by Cove senior Isaiah Sobers again forced a tie, 58-58, with 22 seconds left on the clock. 

A well-executed offensive play found Smith alone in the corner where he buried the game-winning three-pointer with five seconds remaining.

A hail-Mary pass by the Bulldawgs was intercepted by Johntson near the Dawgs free throw line and resulted in a foul where he connected on 1 for 2 shots to ice the game.

The Bulldawgs were led by Pierce with 15 points, followed by Carter and Baker with 11 points each. Ellison added nine points and seven rebounds and Sobers added seven points, seven rebounds and a steal. Freshman Warren Fleming and junior Russel Cochran added two points each and senior Nisher Marks had one point.

Johnston finished with a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds, along with five blocks, five assists and a steal.  

“The Johnston kid is the receiver that signed with TCU,” said Boyce. He made a big difference tonight. I talked to the guys at center court. I told them, we can’t let anybody dictate how we’re going to play and change our shots. We have to play our game. He’s a heck of a player, but we can’t go away from what we do just because another player is pretty good.”

Smith added 10 points, five rebounds and two steals; followed by Hudson (8 pts, 6 rebs, 2 stls), junior Rico Troup (7 pts, 3 stls), Garcia (6 pts), and Pate (5 pts, 5 assts).

The Bulldawgs took an early lead to open the contest on a basket by Carter, along with a pair of baskets by Ellison and a basket and three-pointer by Pierce for an 11-6 Cove lead. The Wildcats finished the quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 14-13 lead after one quarter of action. Baskets by junior Joseph Stewart, Garcia, senior Carlos Torres and senior Markel Carter made it a 14-11 Temple lead before a steal resulted in two free throws for Cove’s Carter to close the period. 

The Bulldawgs regained the lead, 18-14, with a basket in the paint by Cochran and a three-pointer by Baker, but the Wildcats responded with a 10-0 run to take 24-18 lead. Three-pointers by Garcia and Pate and a pair of baskets by Smith accounted for the Wildcats’ run. 

A free throw by Marks, baskets from Pierce and Ellison and another three-pointer by Baker narrowed the Temple lead to three by halftime, 29-26. Free throws from Carter and junior Aundra Jackson and a basket by Troup accounted for the Temple scoring.

The Bulldawgs again took the lead to begin the third quarter, 34-33, on a baseline drive by Fleming, a traditional three-point play by Pierce and a three from deep by Carter that sandwiched a pair of baskets by Hudson.

Consecutive baskets by Johnston flipped the lead back to Temple, 37-34, before baskets by Cove’s Carter and Ellison flipped it back to Cove 38-37.

A basket by Temple’s Troup and two free throws by Cove’s Sobers flipped the lead two more times before a 7-0 Temple run made it a 46-40 Wildcat lead. 

A three-pointer by Sobers pulled Cove back within three, 46-43, before a free throw by Temple’s Troup and 2 for 3 free throws by Cove’s Baker made it 47-45 with time expired in the quarter. 

The Wildcats improved to 17-4 on the season and 4-2 in district play while the Bulldawgs (14-11, 2-4) fall into a tie with Belton and Harker Heights in the fifth spot with Waco (2-5) and Killeen (1-5) rounding out the district standings.

The Bulldawgs travel to Belton to take on the Tigers tonight.

“Belton is always fundamentally sound, and they can really shoot it,” said Boyce. “It’s not just one kid that can shoot it. They will bring a 6-7 kid in and you’ll think he’s a post, but he’ll be shooting threes from half court too.

“It’s a big game for us. Obviously at this point, we’ve got to have it. We’ve got to be motivated.”

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