KILLEEN — Eldridge McAdams has seen this before.
On Tuesday, Copperas Cove’s first-year head coach witnessed his team create a double-digit cushion early only to have a potential victory ripped away due to a lack of focus and intensity after halftime.
The loss was especially frustrating, however, as the Lady Bulldawgs dropped their District 8-5A opener against Killeen 48-44, repeating a trend McAdams has seen far too many times during his brief tenure.
“The last few games that we’ve lost, we’ve had a flat third quarter,” he said. “We came out flat (in the second half against the Lady Kangaroos), we kind of got back on our heels, they punched us in the mouth and we took it.We competed and tied it up, but we can’t have those games and be successful in this district.”
After building a 21-13 halftime lead, Copperas Cove increased its advantage to 10 points, 23-13, moments into the third quarter on junior guard Angel Mullen’s layup.
Then, history began repeating itself.
The Lady Bulldawgs (6-5, 0-1) did not score again until less than three minutes remained in the quarter, but by that point, they were playing from behind.
Killeen used an 11-0 run to claim its first lead of the game at 24-23 before pulling away in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
“We’re turning ball over, and we’re not finishing shots around the basket,” McAdams said. “(My players) have got to concentrate and finish their shots. We are rushing shots that we shouldn’t have to. We are missing a lot of those birdies and chippies, and that’s the game.”
Copperas Cove was 8 of 24 from the floor in the second half while turning the ball over 12 times after halftime, and despite actually producing worse numbers in the first half, the Lady Bulldawgs still thrived as Killeen (4-5, 1-0) struggled mightily to begin the game.
The Lady Bulldawgs (6-5, 0-1) created an immediate 9-2 advantage as Killeen missed 14 of its first 16 field-goal attempts. Copperas Cove increased its cushion to 10 points, 21-11, on Caprica Brooks’ long jumper with 76 seconds remaining before halftime, and the Lady Kangaroos had no momentum following the 4-of-26 shooting performance.
Or so it seemed.
Killeen sophomore guard Tia Harston rebounded from a two-point first half to finish with a game-high 21 points, hitting four clutch free throws in the game’s final minute after Copperas Cove senior Xylina Carlisle hit a deep 3-pointer to pull her team within two-points at 44-42.
While McAdams felt his team let a victory slip away, Killeen head coach Latisha Williams was thrilled with her team’s determination after losing both district games to Copperas Cove last season, including a one-point loss.
“I was really proud of my girls with their heart and just the fight they had in them,” she said. “They didn’t die, and in that first half, it was looking really bad and really bleak, but they just kept going and kept pushing.”
Brittany Gamble posted a team-high 12 points for Copperas Cove, but was limited to just three points in the second half. Carlisle finished with eight points, while Mikayla Blount added seven points to go with 10 rebounds. Lady Bulldawgs senior post Bryaunea Hall grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
Copperas Cove hopes to have its issues resolved by tonight as it hosts Shoemaker (3-6, 1-0).
“Every game, we’ve got to start over,” McAdams said. “I tell the players to have a short memory, and we’ve got to go to work. … (Shoemaker) is a big game. We can’t dig a hole and fall to 0-2.”