Copperas Cove stunned the district. That was the easy part.
Now, the Bulldawgs must find a way to shock the Lone Star State.
Following a pedestrian beginning to District 8-5A play, Copperas Cove was forced to fight its way into postseason contention. The Bulldawgs had to achieve a near impossible task and overcome a two-game deficit with four games remaining in the regular season.
It took a trio of wins against teams positioned ahead of them in the standings, a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime of the district finale and a pocket full of lucky rabbits feet, but the Bulldawgs accomplished their season-long goal and made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 when they were a Class-4A program.
Congratulations, Copperas Cove.
But do not spend too much time patting yourself on the back because for all your efforts, after all the scratching, clawing and biting to snap a four-year postseason drought, the state’s No. 1 program awaits.
The Bulldawgs open the playoffs against top-ranked DeSoto — a team with only two blemishes on its impressive record. It might not seem like much of a reward, but Copperas Cove head coach Billy White Jr. feels like his team just won the lottery.
After clinching a playoff berth, White said he was so excited to extend the season he would be happy to play the Miami Heat. Well, he will not have to contend with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen, but he is going to have his hands full facing their high school equivalent.
The Eagles, who climbed to No. 4 nationally in both the USA Today Super 25 rankings and the MaxPreps Xcellent poll in late January, practically cruised through the regular season, winning by an average of more than 17 points per game. Their two losses came against then-No. 2 South Grand Prairie and a state-ranked Duncanville team by a combined seven points.
Additionally, in a nationally televised game on ESPN, DeSoto upset Chicago Simeon, which was ranked the No. 1 team in the nation at the time, behind 23 points from Duke commit Matt Jones.
And while the Bulldawgs spent the season focused on returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, DeSoto is equally intent on earning a state championship trophy for the first time since 2009.
All things considered, it would appear the Bulldawgs are in store for a brief postseason appearance, similar to their last trip, when Waxahachie eliminated them in the bi-district round.
Looks, however, can be deceiving. After all, few outside of the Bulldawgs’ fan base believed they would be in this position to begin with, but Copperas Cove never lost faith. And one needs to look no further than last year’s NCAA tournament, when No. 2 seeds Duke and Missouri were both eliminated in the first round by significant underdogs Lehigh and Norfolk State, to know anything is possible.
The Bulldawgs were literally forced to take a game-by-game approach to the tail end of the season and have thrived in a playoff atmosphere for the past two weeks.
Obviously, DeSoto is the decisive favorite in this game, but Copperas Cove is playing better than it has all season and has the confidence of a cage fighter. Now, it is time to see if they can deliver a punch capable of dropping DeSoto and the jaws of countless Texas basketball fans.