Sophomore, freshman lead Bulldawgs’ 73-62 comeback over Kangaroos
By TJ MAXWELL
Copperas Cove boys’ head basketball coach Travis Boyce Jr didn’t like the way things were going after his team was called for a half dozen offensive fouls and fell behind in Tuesday night’s must-win District 12-6A contest at home against the Killeen Kangaroos.
After opening up with a 5-0 lead with a three-point play by senior A’lonnie Carter and a basket by junior Dequan Seda, the Roos exploded for a 19-2 run to take 19-7 lead to open the second quarter.
Boyce made some substitutions to try and find some rhythm and slowly began to eat away at the Killeen lead.
“I feel like my first group didn’t come in the game ready to go, so it is an added bonus to be able to put some kids in that you can trust to get it done just as well as the starters,” said Boyce. “It’s good having some depth. It does make you feel good. You need your starters to obviously come out and perform better, but stuff like that is going to happen. In our district, I always say, it can be anybody’s game. When you step out on the floor, you’ve got to come ready.”
A three-pointer by Cove sophomore Henry Sanchez narrowed the Roos’ lead to single digits before baskets by junior Maurice Henry and Sanchez, along with a pair of free throws by Carter pulled Cove within seven points with 4:19 left in the first half.
Baskets by Killeen’s Andre Clay and Dominic Davis pushed the Roos’ lead back to double digits before freshman Bryce Smith led the Bulldawgs on a 9-2 run to close the half, including a three-pointer that closed the half with a 30-26 score.
The freshman answered a basket by Killeen’s A. B. Oladipo with one of his own to again make it a four-point game to open the third quarter before the Bulldawgs’ defense got stingy and the sophomore Sanchez caught fire.
A steal for a layup by Carter gave a spark to the Dawgs but the Roos had an answer with baskets by De’Marco Blas and A. B. Oladipo, but a three from beyond the arc and steal for a traditional three-point play by Sanchez and a basket from Carter gave Cove their first lead since mid-way through the first quarter, 38-36, with 4:43 left in the third.
A steal and layup by Carter added to the lead, but a three-pointer by Bryson Scott made it a one-point game, 40-39.
The Dawgs began to pull away with a pair of baskets by Seda and sophomore warren Fleming that sandwiched another Sanchez trey for a 47-39 Cove lead.
A basket by Killeen’s Davis briefly slowed the Bulldawgs’ run but baskets by Seda and Fleming gave Cove a 51-41 lead heading into the final period.
Both teams came out firing from deep to open the final eight minutes of action with five-consecutive three-pointers to open the quarter.
Junior Sean Anderson buried the first one for Cove before Killeen’s Scott and Cove’s Sanchez looked like they entered a three-point contest sinking two treys each to make it a 60-47 contest.
Sanchez then got another theft for the basket and his 17th point of the second half and an offensive rebound and putback by Seda gave the Dawgs the largest lead of the game at 17, 64-47.
The Cove defense then forced a pair of 10-second violations on the Roos before another Seda putback made it a 19-point contest.
Another trey by Scott and a three-point play the traditional way by Davis made it a 16-point Cove lead, 69-53, with 2:29 left.
Another basket by Sanchez and two free throws by junior Tyrese Carter pushed the lead to 20, 73-53 before a pair of late threes by Davis and a steal for a basket by A.D. Oladipo made it 73-62 final score.
“I think we played with a little bit more intensity and we played a little harder (in the second half),” said Boyce. “That has kind of been the M.O. for us. We’ve been a second-half team. We’ve got to find a way to put the first half together and try to put a complete game together.”
Sanchez scored a game-high 25 points, including going 5 for 9 from three-point range, and added four steals to lead the Dawgs while A’lonnie Carter added 12 points and a game-high six steals. Seda added 10 points and seven rebounds followed by Bryce (9 pts, stl), T. Carter (5 pts, 6 rebs), Henry (4 pts, 7 rebs), Anderson (3 pts) and Tyrez Reynolds (2 pts, reb).
Davis led the Roos with 18 points while Scott added 13 points and four rebounds flowed by (A. B. Oladipo (12 points, 7 rebs), Blas (7 pts), Clay (6 pts, 7 rebs), A.D. Oladipo (4 pts, 4 rebs) and Chase Adkins (2 pts, 3 rebs).
The win puts the Bulldawgs (3-4 in District 12-6A) back in the mix for one of the four playoff spots with a freshman, two sophomores and three juniors in the regular rotation, including Sanchez and Fleming who are often in the starting lineup.
“It’s always a good feeling as a coach to have a team that is playing pretty solid and you’re doing it with a lot of young guys and have a lot returning,” said Boyce. “When Billy White was here as a head coach and now my time, that’s one of the things we preached on – being able to have some freshmen, sophomores and juniors on the squad that can get the job done so you can it rolling with your squad year in and year out.”
The Bulldawgs open the second half of district play at home tonight against the Temple Wildcats (1-6 in 12-6A). The Dawgs earned a 65-59 road win over the Cats in their first district matchup.
Boyce feels his team has a chance to improve on the first-round results if they get focused.
“We’ve got to complete 32 minutes,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve had a game yet where we played 32 so, if I can get us to get locked in a little more and play a few more minutes harder and better than what we’re doing, I think we may give ourselves a chance in the end.”