It was everything Billy White Jr. wanted — except the outcome.
On the heels of a slow start, Copperas Cove fell behind by 16 points early in the third quarter at Class 6A No. 13 Ellison, and the Bulldawgs’ 17-game win streak appeared in jeopardy as they entered the final period trailing 57-44.
But then, Copperas Cove responded.
The Bulldawgs scored 14 of the fourth quarter’s opening 18 points, triggering a furious comeback that fell just shy of being completed as the Eagles held on for a 68-65 victory.
Following the program’s first defeat since Nov. 21, Copperas Cove’s head coach applauded his players’ late-game performances.
“This is a senior-led team,” White said, “and we can loosen the reins a lot on these guys and trust them to make the right plays, because they are smart basketball players.
“They made good plays in crunch situations, and I’m definitely proud of those guys for that.”
Two of the few shots the Bulldawgs missed during the fourth quarter, however, came at the buzzer.
Behind six fourth-quarter points from junior Quinton Ford and five from post Tyrese Taylor, Copperas Cove pulled within one point, 66-65, with 35 seconds remaining before Ellison senior Casey Armour’s free throws created a three-point contest. Armour finished with a game-high 21 points.
The score remained the same as the Bulldawgs emerged from a timeout with 10.3 seconds on the clock, looking force overtime, but it would not happen as a pair of open 3-point attempts failed to fall with time expiring.
“We did a much better job in the second half of limiting Ellison to one shot,” Copperas Cove head coach Billy White Jr. said. “I’m proud of my guys and the fight they had, especially in the second half, and we had a chance at the end.
“That’s all I can ask for.”
Tyrese Cooley scored a team-high 15 points for Copperas Cove, while Ford finished with 13 points and teammate Neyland Block contributed 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Additionally, Taylor scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds.
With the loss, the Bulldawgs (22-2, 1-1 District 8-6A) enter tonight’s home game against Shoemaker in a three-way tie for third place in the standings.
Ellison and Waco Midway remain unbeaten through two district games, while Copperas Cove, Killeen, Harker Heights and the Grey Wolves are 1-1. San Angelo Central and Belton are each winless.
The Bulldawgs will play another home game Tuesday, hosting Harker Heights, and while the loss at Ellison was disappointing, White does not believe it will linger.
“I’m extremely proud of my guys,” he said, “and I’m extremely proud of the way they battled.
“This was only the second district game, and we’ve got 12 more to go. We’re just going to go back to the practice floor, regroup and get ready for a tough Shoemaker team.”