COPPERAS COVE — Chance Smith did not like what he saw in the first half.
So the junior took it upon himself to do something about it.
After taking a four-point advantage into halftime, Smith energized an 18-7 run to start the third quarter, helping the Bulldawgs’ create a cushion Waco La Vega could not overcome.
“I led my team and made them work harder, just like (they do to) me,” Smith said. “I work off their tempo, and when they are hype, I’m hype. ... We really got going, and we won.”
Behind 17 points from Smith and a team-high 20 points from Phillip Baptiste, Copperas Cove rebounded from its slow start to finish strong, scoring 11 of the contest’s final 15 points to beat the visiting Pirates 92-79.
Despite producing a double-digit victory, the Bulldawgs did not cruise to victory.
Copperas Cove (3-6) scored seven unanswered points to build a 75-60 advantage early in the fourth quarter before La Vega responded with a run of its own, accounting for 15 of the next 21 points to shrink the deficit to six points, 81-75, with approximately three minutes remaining.
“We made some runs, but they would nip it back down,” Bulldawgs head coach Billy White Jr. said. “They had various different kids that could shoot the 3-ball, so they were able to knock some shots down and keep it close for quite a bit of the game.”
With less than 90 seconds remaining in the game, the Pirates (1-2) trailed 83-77, but Copperas Cove senior Rashard Odomes emphatically reclaimed momentum for his team by getting fouled as he delivered a dunk off an offensive rebound. Odomes, who scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, missed the free throw, but it did not matter as his dunk sparked a streak of nine consecutive points for the Bulldawgs, who secured the win with the run.
Five players scored 10 or more points for Copperas Cove, including Baptiste, who made his on-court debut after joining the team late due to the football team’s stint in the playoffs.
“Coach said he needed me to drive and take it to the hole,” the senior said. “So, I executed and tried to do what he told me to do. I was just playing my game.”
After Smith and Baptiste combined to score 12 of the Bulldawgs’ 20 points in the opening quarter, guard Elijah Sobers tallied six of his 12 points in the second quarter, and Copperas Cove held a 46-42 lead entering halftime.
In the locker room, Smith accepted what needed to be done.
“We played good on defense, we outhustled people, we worked hard, and we just played team ball,” said Smith of the second-half adjustments.
“We were just not in our right mindset,” he added.
“Once coach White talked to us, we got back in the right frame of mind and did what we were supposed to do.”
Now, the Bulldawgs prepare for life on the road as they embark on a three-week stretch without a home game. Copperas Cove’s next game at Bulldawg Gymnasium will be its District 8-5A opener against Waco Midway on Dec. 17.
For White, the location of the games is unimportant as long as his team is improving.
“It is just something that we have to understand has to get done,” he said. “Hopefully, we can string together some wins and get ready for (the Panthers).”