TRIPLE THE FUN
Fri, 2017-01-20 06:38 News Staff
Bulldawgs win third-straight to keep grip on playoff chase
By TJ MAXWELL
The third time is the charm, so they say.
The Dawgs held off a late Belton rally to win their third-straight contest, 55-48, and put themselves in a tie for third place with No. 23 Waco Midway at 4-2 who they face tonight on the road.
For Copperas Cove head coach Billy White Jr, the third win in as many games is something new for his squad; in the first half of district play that is.
White is used to his team rallying in the second round of district play to squeak into the playoffs, but this is the first time they’ve made a run this early.
“I can’t tell you the exact dates but I can tell you a couple years back when we were making our runs late we had to do that,” said White. “There were a lot of times where we were 1-6 in the first round then went 6-1 in the second round.
“We’ve done it but it’s been a few years and this is definitely the first time it was done in the first round.”
Opportunistic defense and big plays by Cove junior Jyhlil Rice helped the Dawgs build a 12-point lead by the half, 34-22.
Rice scored eight of his 11 first-half points during a lopsided second quarter where the Dawgs scored 20 points while holding Belton to just eight.
“It was coming to me. I was just in the right spots, my teammates were getting me the ball and I was hitting shots,” said Rice. “We’re getting better playing together as a team. We’re getting the ball moved around and trusting each other on offense and defense.”
Tied at 14-14 after eight minutes of action, the Dawgs took control of the game with a 15-5 run that gave them a 29-19 lead.
Aggressive plays in the lane by Rice and junior Tyrese Cooley resulted in 2 for 4 free throws and kick started the run.
The Dawgs then showed crisp ball movement for four assists in the next four buckets. Senior Dahmir Pearson found junior Justus Honea for his second three-pointer of the first half for the first assist before Cooley found Rice for a 21-16 Cove lead.
A three-pointer by Belton senior Carson Hammond briefly halted the Cove run before back-to-back assists by Honea to Rice kicked off an 8-0 run. Junior Frank Alvarado and sophomore Quinton Ford each added a pair of free throws to cap the run.
Three more points an a free throw and bucket by Hammond cut the deficit to single digits, 29-22, before 4 for 4 free throws by senior Jordan Govan and another by Rice made it a 34-22 Cove lead.
The Dawgs carried that lead into the final frame after both teams scored 11 in the third quarter for a 45-33 Cove lead.
The Tigers employed the full-court press to begin the fourth quarter and it paid dividends as they erased a 12-point deficit to just three on three-consecutive three-pointers.
After Belton junior Jarian Early cut the Cove lead to 10 on a putback, junior Kiron Griffin, sophomore Mario Locker and Hammond each hit from downtown to cut the Cove lead to three, 49-46 with 3:19 remaining in the contest.
Cove responded with a 6-2 run to hold off the surging Tigers.
“It floated around that 12-point lead until they hit a couple shots and got a steal,” said White. “I was proud of the guys for stepping up and making plays when we needed them. That was big. Those are pressure-type plays we can’t recreate in a practice scenario so it was definitely a great job of those guys stepping up in a pressure situation.”
Bench players Cooley and Govan accounted for all six points in the run. Cooley hit 3 for 4 free throws to sandwich a bucket and 1 for 2 free throws by Govan.
“It’s lovely,” White said of his deep bench. “I say it all the time but that is the reality for us. We have a lot of guys on our team that can make plays for us. Jordan Govan came in and hit a big shot but, before that, he had a big defensive stop and on another possession he got a good block-out rebound.
“(It was also great) for Cooley to step up and make those free throws and did what he needed to do. It’s a great luxury to have those guys that can step off the bench and come in and make those plays in a district pressure situation and that should definitely help us down the road.”
Rice, who had a team-high 13 points and seven rebounds, is the third different player to lead the team in scoring in as many games and he says that makes them a formidable foe.
“It’s really important,” he said. “If we have one player’s playing bad, we can put somebody else in there to pick up the slack and everybody can play.”
Rice also thinks the deep bench allows them to play more aggressively on defense.
“It’s good because we can play hard defense and get the ball out because we trust everybody to shoot the ball,” he said. “We don’t just need one person shooting.”
Although he wasn’t necessarily pleased with his teams’ play, White knows the value of winning ugly games.
“I thought we were really flat across the board but the good thing is we had one of these games early and were still able to come out with a victory. I thought they played well enough for us to win the game and that’s a good thing.
“It was an ugly game from start to finish but we finished with a win. We came out a little flat and that’s going to happen. I’d much rather have it happen now versus later in the season.”
Honea added 11 points and three assists to Rice’s total, including three from beyond the arc, followed by Govan (7 pts, 3 stls), Pearson (6 pts, five rbs), Ford (6 pts) junior Jacob Carter (4 pts) and Alvarado (2 pts).
Hammond led the Tigers with a game-high 18 points and four steals followed by Griffon with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Rice feels like they must play better tonight if the want to earn the road upset over no. 23 Midway tonight.
“We need to work on our press breaks, our half-court defense and just taking care of the ball in the full court,” he said. We had some unnecessary turnovers tonight.”
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