Seniors shine in 76-47 win over Belton in home finale

By TJ MAXWELL
Cove Leader-Press

The four seniors on the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs’ basketball team gave fans a show in their final game at Bulldawg Stadium for the 2018-19 season as they willed their team past the Belton Tigers 76-47 to grab a share of the fourth and final spot in the UIL playoffs.
“I’m just proud of the boys and the way they were able to come out here and accomplish this tonight with a lot of pressure,” said Copperas Cove head boys’ basketball coach Travis Boyce Jr. “It’s a big deal to come and play well under pressure, understanding you have to have these games to get to the playoffs.”
Seniors Quinton Ford, Tyrese Taylor and D.J. Dewald combined for 60 of the Bulldawgs’ 76 points, led by Ford’s 33-point, 10 rebound performance and a big shooting night from Dewald with 17 points. Fellow senior Damon Hewing set up a lot of the offense, finishing with six assists. 
“I think it was very important,” Ford said of the big shooting night. “We’re not a very good shooting team but, for us to come out here and knock down all those shots, I think it will carry over and boost everybody’s confidence heading into Ellison.”
The Bulldawgs found themselves in a dogfight in the first half in a 28-28 tie with 2:57 left in the first half, but Cove finished the second quarter on a 11-0 run to take a 39-28 lead into the half. 
“It’s huge,” Boyce said of the big offensive output from his seniors. “These guys have been together since elementary age, so we’ve seen them grow up here and mature into the young men they are. It was huge having them on the floor with that experience to help us cap this game off. It was definitely heading in the direction of being a dogfight.”
Three consecutive three-pointers by Dewald fueled the 11-0 Cove run to close the half.  
“In the other games, I haven’t been shooting as well so this game really brought my confidence up,” said Dewald. “It felt like everything was going to go in.”
A three from beyond the arc and a traditional three-point play by Ford along with two more threes from Dewald helped the Bulldawgs open a 52-34 lead heading into the final frame. 
Ford then blew the game wide open with consecutive three-pointers to start the final frame with a 22-point Cove advantage, 58-36.
A basket and pair of free throws by Belton junior Josh Rardin briefly halted the Cove onslaught but baskets by Ford, Dewald and a slam dunk by Taylor opened a 24-point Cove lead with just under four minutes to play.
A pair of free throws by Taylor pushed the lead to 26, 66-40, before a floater and a three-pointer by Ford gave the Dawgs their largest lead of the night of 30, 71-41 with 1:45 left in the contest.
“I think we played very well,” said Taylor. “The last time we played Belton, they sent three or four guys at me. This time it was the same thing, but my teammates came through. They were hitting shots from everywhere and I really appreciate them.” 
Reserve players, junior Nisher Marks and sophomore Lakyi Ellison closed out Cove’s scoring with a three-pointer and layup, respectively. 
“We needed this one,” said Boyce. “I was telling the guys we need two and this is one of them. If we go take care of business and play the way we need to play against Ellison, that will be the second half of it. 
“As long as our guys focus on what we’ve got to do, play to our full capabilities and we’ll go from there.”
Ford and Dewald combined for 13 three-pointers in the win.
“It makes it even better because he was in a shooting slump,” Ford said of the Dewald showing. “He came in and hit three or four threes in a row. It was phenomenal.”
Ford finished 8 for 14 from beyond the arc and added another three-point play the old-fashioned way for his game-high 33 points. He also had 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive board. Dewald followed with 17 points on 5 for 9 shooting from beyond the arc. He also contributed five rebounds and two assists in the win. Taylor finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds. Marks added five points and two rebounds, junior Isaiah Sobers had three points, a rebound and an assist, junior Jerome Gaillard had four points, seven rounds and three steals and Ellison finished with two points and two boards. 
Rardin led the Tigers with 17 points while freshman T.J. Johnson had 13 points and seven rebounds and senior Mario Locket finished with nine points and three assists. 
The win put Copperas Cove (7-8) in a two-way tie with Waco High (7-8) heading into tonight’s District 12-6A finales. The Bulldawgs and Lions split during the regular season and close out the season with playoff bound Ellison (12-3) and Waco Midway (12-3), respectively. A win by both teams or a loss by both teams would set up a tiebreaker scenario.
“We know we have to take care of Ellison to ensure a playoff spot,” said Ford. “I think the stretch at the end of this game will carry over into the Ellison game. It’s going to be tough at Ellison. It always is, but I think we’re going to go in there and take care of business and solidify our playoff spot.
“We know they’re going to send two or three people at me and two or three people at Tyrese. We just have to make sure we go in there with confidence and execute, I think we can get it done.”
 

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