By Angel Verdejo
The Cove Herald
It was do-or-die time for Copperas Cove.
Sitting in fifth place - a game behind visiting A&M Consolidated - the Lady Bulldawgs couldn't afford any more slip-ups.
And with their decisive District 12-5A meeting moved up 24 hours due to impending winter-weather storms, the Lady Dawgs had less time to find an answer for the Lady Tigers.
They put up a good fight, but it didn't happen.
A&M Consolidated held off Cove 72-65 on the road Monday, eliminating the Lady Dawgs from the 12-5A race behind a stellar performance from Taylor Tucker and several Cove shots that couldn't find the bottom of the net.
"I'm just super proud of them, because we didn't have a whole lot of time," A&M Consolidated coach Karen Heintz said. "I told my kids, 'We're in a must-win - they're in a must, must-win situation.'"
Cove falls to 6-6 in district play with two games remaining. The Lady Dawgs are two games behind A&M Consolidated (22-9, 8-4), who own the tie-breaker with its season sweep over Cove.
The Lady Dawgs, who last missed the playoffs in 2006, goes to 21-9. That year, Cove finished tied for third in 13-5A with Waco, only to lose the play-in game.
"We went out and did, for the most part, the things we wanted to do," Cove coach Preston Flaniken said. "We just had times where we missed out on a few opportunities to get stops that, in the end, made the difference."
Cove simply didn't have a consistent answer for Tucker, who had a double-double by halftime and finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Traonna Shedrick countered Tucker in the post early in the third, scoring nine of Cove's first 11 third-quarter points, including a three-point play after Tucker fouled her going up.
But the Lady Dawgs couldn't close the gap. And Tucker didn't make things better when she started hitting mid-range jumpers late in the third and early in the fourth quarter.
"She took charge," Heintz said. "And we feel like she was very tough to defend down there because she's so quick and explosive. I thought 44 (Shedrick) did a really good job on her, kind of holding her up, but when she started hitting her outside stuff, where are you going to guard her?"
A&M Consolidated stretched its lead to double digits on a Tucker layup with 5:04 left in the game, but Cove didn't go away despite the Lady Tigers making 11-of-16 free throws in the final minutes.
Cove's Shawnte Goff, who scored 11 of her team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, made it 68-63 with a putback, with Jasmine Baskin stealing the ensuing A&M Consolidated inbounds pass and hitting two free throws to cut the deficit to three points (68-65) with 30 seconds left.
The Lady Dawgs sent Tierra Tucker to the foul line and she made both free throws. Baskin missed a 3-pointer on the other end, with Tori Tucker getting the rebound for the Lady Tigers and hitting both foul shots to make it 72-65.
Baskin then missed another 3-pointer, with A&M Consolidated corralling the ball for the win. In all, Cove made 5-of-23 shots from beyond the arc.
"We got some open looks - we just didn't knock them down," Flaniken said. "They were shots that we live by ... It wasn't anything where we were forcing things up - you can't control if the ball goes in."
Copperas Cove 59, Bryan 37 (last Friday) - At Bryan, the Lady Bulldawgs overcame a slow start and used a suffocating defense to ultimate put distance between them and the host Lady Vikings.
Cove hit just 3 of 11 shots in the first quarter, trailing by four points before its defense took over in the second and third quarters.
The Lady Dawgs outscored Bryan 30-11 during the stretch, using their press to force the Lady Vikings into 18 turnovers - Bryan had 32 for the game.
Cove pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Bryan 15-3.
Jasmine Baskin scored a team-high 15 points for the Lady Dawgs, while Shawnte Goff and Renee Faison each added 12 points.