COPPERAS COVE — Harker Heights had to make a statement. In the second quarter, the Knights did.
After a sluggish start dropped the Class 5A No. 14 Knights into an early hole, they responded with a 26-point outburst in the second quarter and never trailed following halftime, defeating Copperas Cove 66-55.
Although Harker Heights needed to fight off several rallies by the Bulldawgs before eventually earning the victory, guard Josh DeLaney knew a message was sent during the second quarter.
“It was really the turning point of the game,” the Harker Heights senior said. “We started off slow, and after that we had to turn it on. The second quarter was that quarter for us to turn it on.”
DeLaney scored nine of his game-high 25 points in the second quarter as the Knights erased a six-point deficit before building a 30-19 cushion. Copperas Cove got within two points, 33-31, early in the third quarter, but could never regain control following the Knights’ 8-of-12 shooting performance in the second quarter.
Following the game, Bulldawgs head coach Billy White Jr. admitted the second quarter completely swung momentum in the Knights’ direction.
“That was big for them,” he said. “They got some buckets in transition and did the stuff Harker Heights does. (Knights senior Cody Halvorson) hit a 3-pointer in the corner, and that sent them on that run.”
Harker Heights (17-3, 4-1 District 8-5A) scored the first five points of the game, but the Bulldawgs responded with nine unanswered points and held a 13-7 lead at the end of the opening period behind seven points from Rashard Odomes, who finished with a team-high 20 points and eight rebounds.
Then, the Knights claimed complete control of the game.
With DeLaney, C.J. Bobbitt and D’Angelo Streeter combining for all but three points in the second quarter, Harker Heights held an 11-point advantage, 30-19, following DeLaney’s 3-pointer
Copperas Cove (11-11, 2-3) trimmed the deficit to six points at halftime, 33-27, but the Knights thrived at the free-throw line in the second half, making 20 of the 26 shots as they continually thwarted the Bulldawgs’ comeback attempts. Harker Heights made 31 of 39 free-throw attempts in the game, while Copperas Cove was 18 of 21.
“There is nothing you can do about that,” White said of the free-throw discrepancy. “We just have to regroup and keep playing.”
Bobbitt finished with 16 points and seven rebounds for the Knights, while Streeter added 13 points to complement DeLaney’s 7-of-11 shooting performance.
The Bulldawgs’ final opportunity to regain control of the game came early in the fourth quarter as Chance Smith hit a pair of free throws to make the score 44-41, but Harker Heights answered with an 11-2 run to practically secure the victory despite Copperas Cove hanging around for the duration of the contest.
“Close games are good, but they aren’t good for the coaches because I’m drained now,” Harker Heights head coach Celneque Bobbitt said. “I’m trying to gain some weight, but I’m not going to gain any weight going through these battle royals, but it builds character and it pays off for us.”