There may be no hotter team than the Shoemaker Grey Wolves.
From being a forgotten-about playoff team — sitting third in the district standings while Ellison and Harker Heights shared the lead earlier this season — the Grey Wolves have won nine straight games and are currently locked in a tie for the district lead with just one game left.
However, Shoemaker barely escaped Temple, 56-49, on Friday and face determined Copperas Cove on the road in its regular season finale Tuesday.
The Bulldawgs have won three straight games, including routs of Killeen (70-41, Friday) and Harker Heights (80-58, Tuesday).
And both have much to play for.
With a win, the Grey Wolves clinch at least a share of the District 8-5A championship. The Bulldawgs need a win to ensure they maintain a share of the fourth-place spot with Killeen to force a play-in game for the final postseason berth. Cove actually clinches the fourth berth outright with a win and a Killeen loss at Harker Heights.
Lady Bulldawgs’ turn to take a shot at Cedar Hill
Thanks to a late-season push, Copperas Cove improved its standing and, following a coin flip, finished second in District 8-5A, earning the right to play District 7-5A’s third-place team Cedar Hill.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it is because the Bulldawgs football team followed a similar path during its run to the playoffs, where it ran into a buzzsaw in the form of Cedar Hill. After Copperas Cove won a pair of critical games to close out district play and clinch a playoff berth, the Longhorns jumped out to a 28-7 lead by halftime in the postseason opener, increasing its cushion to 35-7 before Copperas Cove’s fourth-quarter rally fell just short, and Cedar Hill won 35-28 to eliminate the Bulldawgs in the first round.
The Lady Bulldawgs cannot afford to fall into a big hole like the Bulldawgs did when they take to the court for their first playoff appearance since 2010 on Tuesday evening in their bi-district game hosted by West High.
Cedar Hill has two players — Jada Terry and Joyner Holmes — averaging at least 10 points and seven rebounds. The Lady Bulldawgs, who have battled a lack of size all season, must continue to rebound as a team and play bigger than they actually are if they want to avoid the same fate as Jack Welch’s football team.
Ellison coach will be rooting for Dawgs on Tuesday
Having grown up in Killeen, Ellison head basketball coach Alberto Jones doesn’t have any particular fondness for Copperas Cove, especially when they’re competing against fellow Killeen ISD programs.
But on Tuesday, Jones will become a Bulldawgs fan, at least for the night.
Entering the final game of the regular season Tuesday, Ellison and Shoemaker are tied atop the District 8-5A standings after the Grey Wolves knocked off the No. 25 Eagles 60-58 with a buzzer-beating putback by junior Nykolas Dawson Tuesday.
This week, the red-hot Bulldawgs (19-11, 7-6) play host to district co-leader Shoemaker (26-7, 11-2) with a chance to secure a playoff spot with a win and a loss by Killeen, who are tied with Cove in fourth place after Friday’s win over the Roos.
Ellison (26-6, 11-2), in the meantime, has the easiest finale against Belton (8-21, 2-11), which lost at home to the Eagles 75-24 in their first meeting.
If the Eagles are going to secure their first outright district championship since 2004, and the first under Jones, they’re going to need an assist from Copperas Cove, making Jones the Bulldawgs’ No. 1 fan come Tuesday.
Herald staff writer Alex Byington contributed to this report.