The high school basketball season is unofficially over.
While the playoffs are still climbing toward a climax, for area fans, there are no teams left to root for. There are no immediate rivals left either.
With state-ranked Harker Heights’ and Salado’s seasons coming to an end earlier in the week, the record books closed for the immediate vicinity. Although none of the boys or girls teams covered by the Cove Herald — Copperas Cove, Lampasas, Gatesville or Lometa — made it past their first game, 2014 was a banner year for the area squads as five of the eight programs reached the postseason.
The Bulldawgs returned to the playoffs for a second consecutive season, while also producing a another scoring champion as junior Rashard Odomes was named 8-5A All-District Offensive Player of the Year one year after then-senior Cory Scott claimed the same honor.
Despite undergoing their third head coaching change in four years, the Lady Bulldawgs flirted with back-to-back postseason appearances, but came up just short after rallying to win six of their final eight district games.
In Lampasas, the Badgers ended a 12-year playoff drought, completing a turnaround that began four seasons ago, when head coach Rob Shivers inherited a program with a combined district record of 1-19 in the two seasons prior to his arrival.
Missing out on the postseason, however, was Gatesville, but the Hornets did not go down without a fight. Playing for their postseason lives on the road at Lampasas, the Hornets lost a 47-45 overtime thriller, ending their streak of three consecutive playoff appearances.
Both Lady Hornets teams reached the postseason. Gatesville’s girls earned their third berth in four seasons, while Lometa won despite a roster full of underclassmen.
Then, there is perhaps the best team in the Cove Herald’s coverage area — Lometa.
Ranked in the top-25 all season long, the Hornets crushed opponents with regularity, sweeping through their District 28-1A, Division II schedule with ease, winning all but one game by double digits.
Needless to say, it was a great year for area teams as a whole, but two games stole the spotlight.
First, is the aforementioned District 8-3A game with Lampasas and Gatesville producing one of the wildest finishes I’ve seen thanks to Hornets point guard Justin Massey making a free throw with less than a second remaining in regulation to force overtime. The extra period proved just as tense as Gatesville refused to fold despite continually playing from behind.
But, eventually, the Badgers overcame their past, surviving the Hornets’ last-gasp efforts to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
It was easily one of the most exciting games I’ve covered and my nominee for game of the year, until Elijah Sobers scored the game-winning basket in overtime to guide Copperas Cove past Shoemaker in the regular season finale.
The victory was eerily similar to the 2013 district finale, when Montre’ Williams hit a 3-pointer in overtime to end the Bulldawgs’ five-year postseason absence.
I was not in attendance for either of Copperas Cove’s instant classics, but each has already morphed into modern day folklore.
Because of success stories like these, as an avid basketball fan, I always hate to see the season come to an end. The realization quickly sets in that it’s going to be a long, long time before I cover another game.
But I’m already looking forward to the next time I walk into a gymnasium, hoping the best is still yet to come.