In the season finale Wednesday night at Shoemaker High School, Copperas Cove defeated the Grey Wolves to clinch a postseason berth. After Cove’s 80-78 thrilling, overtime victory — Elijah Sobers hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating shot — Bulldawgs head coach Billy White Jr. talked with the Herald’s Allan Mandell.
Coach, three seconds left in overtime. Marquise Moreland was ready to inbound the ball. What were you thinking?
We had the play called. It’s a play we have and knew that’s what we’d be running. Fortunately, Marquise was able to get the ball over to Rashard (Odomes). Rashard was able to make a good play and found (Elijah) Sobers underneath for the basket. It worked out great. Everybody was on the same page. Everybody was where they were supposed to be. The execution was great. Shoemaker made a good defensive play on Rashard but he found Sobers which of course was huge for us.
Nobody can fault Shoemaker there. They certainly made the right move to double Rashard.
Exactly. They did not want to let Rashard beat them there. Shoemaker made a good defensive play on Rashard. They tried to take him away from taking the last shot. And then Rashard made a good offensive play by finding Sobers underneath the basket. Rashard is a great basketball player. He understands the game. He is fully capable of making great plays — which is exactly what he did right there.
On a personal level, how were your own nerves before Moreland passed that ball into Rashard?
Well, with the score tied, I was thinking as long as we get a shot off at the bucket, we’re fine. As long as we got the ball in a place where we’d want it, I was willing to live with that.
What about that 29-footer Rashard hit with 39 seconds left in regulation to tie the game? There was just the slightest of hesitation by him and then he let it fly. What a shot.
Yes, it was a great shot. And, yes, there was just a moment of hesitation. And it may have looked like he was unsure for just that moment. But I’m certain that, in his head, Rashard was saying to himself, “I’m shooting this ball.” One other thing I’m certain of: As far out as Rashard was, I guarantee you that he still felt confident it was going straight in. You and I have talked about that before: Rashard has that type of range. And he’d probably take more shots that far out but we tell him to get to the rack and do some other things. But he definitely has the ability to hit those long-range 3s.
And, Coach, how about the game (senior) Montre’ Williams gave you? Seven assists, five boards and 21 points.
Well, in a month, I am going to hate the fact that I’ll be losing Montre’ Williams. Montre’ is a great basketball player, a great leader, a great asset to our team, great floor general. I could stand here all night and keep giving him compliments. He is one player I will surely miss when he’s no longer on my basketball team.
What a night by Sobers, too. In the end, he comes through with that strong cut to the hoop at the perfect time.
Exactly. He made a strong move down there. (Assistant) Coach (Courtney) Jackson has been telling him all year to be strong down there and square up to score the basketball. He was able to do it twice when we needed it tonight.
This is a great feeling we all have. I’m so proud of these kids. I’m proud of them for being able to pull this game out. I just feel honored to be a part of all this.
Coach, there was such a perfect atmosphere for this game: incredibly loud cheering for both sides from start to finish.
And that’s something that I talked about with my kids all week. I told them that this is the type of atmosphere you love to play basketball in. I told them that this would be a great basketball atmosphere. A night like tonight is the reason that you play high school basketball. Our players will never experience anything that was exactly like it was tonight. This is a contest that my players and our fans will be able to remember the rest of their lives. I’m so glad my kids were able to get this type of experience. This is one of the reasons that I’ve stayed in coaching: just to be able to try and help kids enjoy a big moment like this. This is what high school basketball is all about.
On a personal level, Coach, what did this night mean to you?
It’s huge. It’s a great feeling to watch these kids play relentless under my watch. I’m just proud of each and every one of our kids. I have a great coaching staff and a great group of young men that I feel privileged to coach. We have a great relationship with our administration, principals and athletic director. This is just a great time to be a part of Copperas Cove basketball.