Billy White Jr. intended to avoid this situation.
After faltering early during last season’s District 8-5A schedule, Copperas Cove battled for its playoff life down the stretch, narrowly securing the program’s first postseason berth since 2008 by winning its final four games.
On Tuesday, fate began repeating itself.
Midway junior guard Ish Hook nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of regulation to beat the Bulldawgs 63-62 in the district opener for both teams.
While it is only the first game of a long district schedule, it is a position White hoped to avoid.
“We’ve got to make sure that we do take advantage of (games) early,” he said, “so we don’t have to be in a situation like we were in last year. … But (we learned) if we play all the way through, we are still capable of getting in the playoffs. Obviously, we don’t want to be in that situation, so when you drop them like this, it is a tough pill to swallow.”
Trailing by two points with 5.5 seconds remaining in regulation, Hook slipped to the corner, received an inbounds pass from underneath his own basket and drained the game-clinching shot as time expired, causing Midway players and fans to rush the court in celebration.
For Copperas Cove senior Johnathan Brown, whose offensive rebound and putback gave the Bulldawgs a 62-58 lead with little more than a minute remaining, the outcome is painful for several reasons.
“I think the early games are important because they send a statement to the other teams,” he said. “Plus, the more we win early, the less we have to worry about later on. It stings, especially when it ends like that. It is not a good feeling.”
Bulldawgs guard Montre’ Williams, who finished with a game-high 20 points, made each of his first four shots, including three 3-pointers, while Brown only missed one of his four first-quarter field goal attempts, and Copperas Cove (5-8, 0-1) held a slim 20-19 advantage entering the second quarter.
Chance Smith’s offensive rebound and putback gave Copperas Cove its biggest lead of the game, 28-21, with 4:16 remaining before halftime, but Midway (7-4, 1-0) ended the quarter with a 14-3 run to regain control. Rashard Odomes tallied eight of his 16 points in the third quarter, but Copperas Cove’s lead never exceeded two points, and the Bulldawgs led 52-50 to begin the fourth quarter.
Williams, who missed six of seven shots following his strong start, rediscovered his rhythm, hitting consecutive 3-pointers to give the Bulldawgs a 60-56 cushion with 3:20 left on the clock.
But it was not enough.
“It does hurt,” Williams said. “We needed it. We’ve just got to bounce back, win this next game, and then we will beat (Midway) next time.”