By James Harper
The Cove Herald
COPPERAS COVE - The door to the playoffs remains cracked open for the Copperas Cove boys basketball team after the Bulldawgs defeated Shoemaker 68-59 Feb. 3.
If the Bulldawgs played like their season was on the line, that's because it was.
"It's (the win) huge. It means we get to stay alive another day," said Copperas Cove coach Billy White. "We get to come out and compete and still have a chance at the playoffs."
However, Tuesday against Harker Heights, Knights senior guards Thomas Cherry and C.J. Rodriguez combined on five 3-pointers, scoring 18 and 17 points, respectively to put the Dawgs in the must-win situation for the remainder of district play.
Heights (24-7, 10-2 12-5A), which has already locked up a playoff spot, jumped out on the Bulldawgs 25-14 after the first quarter and never relented.
Cove (16-13, 5-7), which had 10 points apiece from Deion Robinson, Ryen King and Cory Scott, dropped two games back of Shoemaker and Ellison for the final two playoff spots and must win out and hope both stumble in the final two games to force a three-way tie.
That is what made the Shoemaker win so crucial, and Cove's game plan was apparent from the start.
"I tell the team all the time that we aren't real big, so we have to play to our advantages," White said. "Our advantage is our speed, quickness and athleticism."
That and a dead-eye shot from behind the arc. The Bulldawgs shot 50 percent from behind the 3-point line and ran up and down the court like it was a track meet.
Nothing exemplified this more than early in the first quarter with Copperas Cove trailing 8-5. The Bulldawgs ran down the court and leading scorer Rashard Odomes (21 points) knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game.
"My team kept feeding me the ball when I had open looks," Odomes said. "We kept telling each other that we had to pick up our intensity level. We just started controlling the pace."
That lead lasted about six seconds. Shoemaker's Jose Roman got the ball and sprinted down court to hit a three of his own.
The pattern continued for the rest of the half.
Even when Cove managed to build a substantial lead, Shoemaker fought back.
Trailing by seven with less than two minutes left in the second quarter, the Wolves scored six straight points to pull within one.
The third quarter was more of the same. Neither team could gain momentum, nor would they relent.
King came off the bench and sparked his team and the home crowd with 40 seconds remaining in the frame. King was well behind the arc when he received an in-bounds pass. And his defender was giving plenty of space, so he took the shot and hit it.
"Ryen King came off the bench and hit two huge 3's." White said.
Cove finally seized momentum early in the fourth quarter when it was down 51-47. The next series of events crushed Shoemaker's spirits and sent Cove to victory.
King hit another 3-pointer and the Bulldawgs defense forced a quick turnover. Cory Scott made it stand when he hit another 3 to take the lead.
"They hit a bunch of threes. Scott was the best player on the floor and Odomes was the second best player on the floor," said Shoemaker coach Marc Minatrea. "That's the ballgame. Their two best players came to win. They kicked our butts all night on both ends of the floor and played harder than us. It's a simple formula. If your better players play the best and harder than the other team, they are going to win."