Copperas Cove’s basketball teams finally returned to the playoffs last season.
That was the easy part. Now, the Bulldawgs and Lady Bulldawgs must prove their postseason appearances were not flukes.
For the first time since 2008, both Copperas Cove teams reached the playoffs last year, ending speculation the programs were pushovers.
The Lady Bulldawgs shocked District 8-5A by finishing second, and the Bulldawgs used a furious finish to conclude the regular season and clinch the final berth. Neither, however, made it past the first round as the girls were knocked out by Cedar Hill, while No. 1 DeSoto put an end to the boys’ season.
Returning will not be easy considering several key pieces are gone.
Cory Scott, who is the first Bulldawg basketball player to ever sign a national letter of intent with a Division I school, is now at Texas Tech after switching his commitment from Stephen F. Austin.
Shawnte’ Goff, who led the Lady Bulldawgs in points, assists and steals en route to being named all-district co-offensive player of the year, is currently averaging 10.4 points per game for Texas-Pan American. Additionally, the architect behind the Lady Bulldawgs’ resurgence, former head coach Teresa Durham, stepped down following last season’s playoff loss.
The pieces Copperas Cove lost, however, are irrelevant.
Not to take anything away from any of the aforementioned individuals or any others who departed, but successful programs’ achievements never hinge on any one person.
Every high school team in America gains and loses players on an annual basis. It is a fact of life in high school sports.
Sure, talented players and coaches are necessary, but more important is the mindset of the program as a whole.
Everybody must commit themselves to being the best they can be and spend every moment believing they belong among the elite teams within their district. There is an attitude that accompanies prolonged success and producing that culture is often more difficult than winning.
It is easy to give everything to a cause when the goal is something people have longed for. That is what occurred last season.
Both of Copperas Cove’s teams were desperate to shed their labels as underdogs. Both had plenty to prove. Both had senior leaders who refused to end their high school careers without the satisfaction of turning their teams around.
For a majority of those who remain, that burning desire has been extinguished.
I’m not saying they don’t want to win or don’t want to go back to the playoffs. Of course they do, but do they still have that painful gnawing at their gut? Are their intentions focused like a laser beam or do they feel entitled to take their foot off the gas, succumb to excuses and rest on their laurels?
These are far more important questions than anything arising from roster construction.
There is a reason the Ellison Eagles are eyeing a 20th consecutive postseason appearance – as a program, they refuse to be satisfied. It is the same reason the Bulldawgs’ football team has missed the playoffs only once in the last 16 seasons.
While personnel will change, the mentality must remain constant.
The attitude begins at the top with head coaches, but players must shoulder their fair share of the responsibility to constantly push themselves and their teammates to continually get better.
With district play already underway for the Lady Bulldawgs and right around the corner for the Bulldawgs, now is the time when we will learn what these teams and, more importantly, these programs are made of.
Winning is not easy, but winning consistently on a year-to-year basis is even harder.
The easy part is complete. Copperas Cove has tasted the postseason, but were the early playoff departures enough to make them want more?
Only time will tell.