Like the rest of his team, Demarius Cress had his struggles from the free throw line and had a rough start to Tuesday night’s District 8-5A grudge match against the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs.
But when it counted, the junior was clutch.
Cress scored five of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, Melvin Anthony added all eight of his points in the final frame and Brian Long led the Kangaroos with 21 to help Killeen hold off Cove 71-68 at the Killeen High Gym on Tuesday.
“I just knew that these ones have to count, especially with the clock ticking down,” Cress said.
The win keeps Killeen (17-7, 4-2 District 8-5A) within striking distance of district leader Harker Heights while the loss drops Cove (11-12, 2-4) to two games below .500 in district play.
The win was Killeen’s third nail-biter in the last four games.
The Roos beat Belton on a Devyn Williams putback as time expired on Jan. 3 and lost to Ellison on a buzzer-beater on Jan. 7.
“Sometimes we take it to the stretch and make it like the cardiac kids, but our guys persevere, find a way to get a win and that’s what we did tonight,” Killeen coach Reggie Huggins said.
Rashard Odomes scored a game-high 31 points for the Dawgs.
Cress’ free throws came with 13.7 second left and extended the Killeen lead to 70-66. Before those shots, Cress missed his first three shots from the charity stripe and was 1-for-4 though the first 24:30 of play.
But Cove had its final push as Malyk Thomas drove to the lane for a basket that cut Killeen’s lead to two points with 6.3 second remaining.
After Williams hit the second of two free throws to make it 71-68, Cove had a chance as Thomas hauled in the ensuing inbounds pass and put up a 3-pointer at the buzzer that was too long.
“I like close games, I’m pretty sure you give the crowd close games and give them what they want, but to come out on top it feels even better,” Cress said with a smile.
The Roos overcame a rough opening quarter in which they shot 2 of 11 from the field, turned the ball over twice and were out rebounded 11-6.
Killeen shot 4-of-13 from the free throw line in the first half and 16-of-33 overall which Cove coach Billy White Jr. pointed out after the game.
“Their kids made some plays, got some rebounds and got some fouls called for them, went to the free throw line and made some free throws,” White said. “It’s ridiculous and I’m fed up with it.”
Cove made 14 of 22 shots from the free throw line and Killeen picked up 19 personal fouls compared to 17 for Cove.
White was also whistled for a technical foul.
Cove opened the game with a 5-0 run and it took Killeen most of the next two quarters to catch up.
“After that we did what we were supposed to do for the most part,” Huggins said. “We gave away the lead down the stretch when we could have made it easier on ourselves, but if we walk away with a win, I don’t care how we get it.”
Mikell Clark gave Killeen a lead with a drive to the bucket that was accompanied with a trip to the free throw line. Clark went up there with the Roos leading 32-31 and though he missed the free throw, Long made sure Killeen kept the momentum.
Long hauled in the rebound, scored and was fouled to extend Killeen’s lead to 34-31. The play spurred an 18-8 Roo run that saw Long score nine points in that stretch.
“It took us a while to wake up, but it doesn’t matter,” Huggins said. “I’ll take the W.”
Killeen led by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter, but an Odomes 3-pointer sparked a 15-4 Cove run in two minutes that made it 58-57 Killeen with 4:05 remaining.
Killeen visits Heights on Friday while Cove hosts Shoemaker.