COPPERAS COVE — During his final timeout, Billy White Jr. stressed the importance of rebounding the ball.
Ish Hook, however, made sure Copperas Cove never had an opportunity to follow its coach’s instructions.
Trailing by two points with 5.5 seconds remaining in regulation, Midway’s junior guard slipped to the corner, received an inbounds pass from underneath his own basket and drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired, giving the Panthers a 63-62 victory against the Bulldawgs in the District 8-5A opener for both teams.
After the game, White admitted his defense faltered.
“I told them to make sure we contested every shot, and, most important, rebound the basketball once it is shot,” he said. “Unfortunately, we reacted slow to the pass, they got a good look at it and knocked the shot down. That was a big shot for them, and a good shot on their part.”
Hook’s only successful field goal of the game caused Midway players and fans to rush the court in celebration and capped off a wild final 20 seconds to a back-and-forth contest.
Despite committing several crucial turnovers late, Copperas Cove (5-8, 0-1) clung to a two-point advantage and appeared set to secure the win in the game’s waning seconds, but an inbound pass following a charge on the Panthers went untouched, setting up Midway’s final shot.
“It stings,” said Bulldawgs senior Johnathan Brown, who finished with a dozen points and seven rebounds in the loss. “Especially when it ends like that. It is not a good feeling.”
While the outcome was not in his favor, White had virtually no complaints in regard to his team’s play.
“They went out and battled for 32 minutes,” he said. “It was a deal there where it was no fault to them. I take full responsibility for that (loss). I didn’t put them in a situation to be successful down the stretch.”
Copperas Cove guard Montre’ Williams made each of his first four shots, including three 3-pointers, while Brown only missed one of his four first-quarter field goal attempts and the Bulldawgs held a slim 20-19 advantage entering the second quarter.
Chance Smith’s offensive rebound and putback gave Copperas Cove its biggest lead of the game, 28-21, with 4:16 remaining before halftime, but Midway (7-4, 1-0) ended the quarter with a 14-3 run to regain control. Rashard Odomes tallied eight of his 16 points in the third quarter, but Copperas Cove’s lead never exceeded two points, and the Bulldawgs led 52-50 to begin the fourth quarter.
Williams, who missed six of seven shots following his strong start, rediscovered his rhythm, hitting consecutive 3-pointers to give the Bulldawgs a 60-56 cushion with 3:20 left on the clock.
But it was not enough.
“Basketball is a game of possessions, and you’ve got to make sure you make the most out of your possessions when you have it,” White said.
The Panthers made five of their six field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter, while Brown’s putback in the final 90 seconds accounted for the Bulldawgs’ only successful shot outside of William’s 3-pointers.
Nevertheless, Williams, like his coach, was pleased with the way the Bulldawgs played overall.
“I thought we played good,” said the senior, who finished with a game-high 20 points (5-8 3FG) to go with three assists and a steal.
“They just got a last-minute shot.”