HARKER HEIGHTS — After defeating Harker Heights at the McDonalds All Star Invitational in College Station on Dec. 28, Copperas Cove knew the Lady Knights were going to be ready to go Friday in a district rematch.
But thanks to Brittany Gamble, and second-chance opportunities, Cove was ready also.
On Friday, Cove not only picked up its second district win, 67-59, by toppling Heights for the second straight time, but it also handed Heights just its second district loss of the season.
“(The win) was big,” Cove coach Eldridge McAdams said. “It was one that we needed because looking at all our losses they were just right there, so it was big. Hopefully, we can build on it.”
Gamble poured in 24 points to lead the way as 11 Lady Bulldawgs scored in the game.
Cove (12-10, 2-5 8-5A) also outrebounded the Lady Knights 42-26 and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, leading to second-chance opportunities like the Xylina Carlisle 3-pointer that put Cove up 66-59 with 26 seconds to play, finally putting the Lady Knights away for good.
For Heights, the play was a microcosm of a night of defensive lapses.
“Our defense was horrible tonight,” Heights coach Shirretha Nelson said. “We gave them second shot opportunities, we weren’t following and (were) giving them too many opportunities to rebound.
“They were passing and we were rotating and then we would stop rotating. Our defense broke down and it collapsed tonight.”
After entering halftime of the first meeting down 18 points, Heights went to the locker room down 33-27 Friday despite playing without star guard Alexus Dukes in the first half due to undisclosed reasons.
Cove canned five 3-pointers in the first half, including three from Gamble, yet Heights was able to keep pace thanks to 18 first-half points from Angela DeLaney, who finished with 24.
Dukes returned in the second half and scored 18 points, but the Cove advantage only grew, reaching 10 on a pull-up jumper by Kenya Haynes that made it 40-30 with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Heights entered the fourth trailing by nine, but Gamble put Cove up 11 on a transition layup on the Lady Bulldawgs’ first possession of the fourth.
Gamble later put her team up by its largest margin of the night with a three-point play for a 57-44 lead with 6:19 to play.
But Gamble said her performance was just part of a team effort to begin turning around its season with the second half of district play looming.
“We knew that we needed a win, and my team, we had to fight,” Gamble said. “So, we came out here and we said, ‘we’re going to pass, we’re going to have motion, we’re going to move the ball, we’re going to have looks at (3-pointers), so that’s what we did.”
Cove hit eight 3-pointers as a team and tallied 12 assists, half of which came from junior guard Mikayla Blount, who also added 15 rebounds to go with seven points.
Down 11 with 2:32 to play, following Gamble’s fourth 3-pointer, Heights began a 7-0 run that was nearly all Dukes relentlessly attacking the basket.
The junior put in a layup to pull Heights within 63-59 with 42 seconds remaining, but Carlisle iced the game with her 3-pointer 16 seconds later on a second-chance opportunity.
And while it certainly wasn’t easy, Cove was happy to walk away from the road game with a victory and a bit of momentum for the second half of league play.
“I thought it was almost like a heavyweight fight,” McAdams said.
“They hit, we hit, they hit, we hit and at the end we did some things tonight that we haven’t done in a while.”