Shoemaker boys basketball coach Marc Minatrea set the table for the Grey Wolves’ game tonight against district-leading Ellison: “It is going to be the pasta versus empanada.”
Carb-driven entree’s aside, Shoemaker can wolf down a share of the Eagles’ district lead with a win at Ellison at 5:30 p.m.. Harker Heights could stake its claim to the top spot, as well, with a win over Copperas Cove at home and an Ellison loss.
“It would be nice if we played hard and played well and would be fortunate enough to win,” Minatrea said. “Because, even though it’s early, it would assure that we’re in first-place and our goal is to make the playoffs and have as high a seed as possible.”
Shoemaker (18-6, 3-1 8-5A) won its first four games of the season and 13 of 16 before opening its District 8-5A slate with a 69-59 win over Killeen. Still, the Grey Wolves were also-rans behind the district-favorite Eagles (19-4, 4-0) and Knights (15-7, 3-1).
With hoopla surrounding up-from-4A Killeen and its new coach, the dynamic duo of sophomore Rashard Odomes and senior Cory Scott at Copperas Cove and Belton’s surprising 2-0 start in 8-5A, the Grey Wolves, despite boasting the area’s longest boys basketball playoff run last season, fell seemingly out of the pack.
A win tonight and Shoemaker will be right there at the front, where the Grey Wolves can’t be missed by anyone.
“I don’t know what other people think about us, I just know what we think,” Minatrea said. “Our kids talk to all the other kids in town and they all know each other and make fun of each other.
“I think Renard (Thomas, Shoemaker senior guard) thinks we can probably beat the (San Antonio) Spurs, so as long as Renard’s on the team, he thinks we can beat anybody.”
Dawgs back on home floor
Copperas Cove spent a month on the road. Tuesday, the Bulldawgs made a triumphant return.
After hosting two games, the Bulldawgs were exiled from their gym for 35 days due to tournaments, scheduled road games, the holiday break and repeated bomb threats at various Copperas Cove campuses. Combined with a road-heavy schedule to start the season, entering its game against Temple earlier in the week, Copperas Cove played 18 of its first 20 games on the road, including its first three district games.
Against the Wildcats, however, the Bulldawgs experienced a home-court advantage for the first time since Dec. 3 and capitalized on the opportunity by producing a 34-point victory, 78-44.
“We hadn’t been at home since early December, so it was great to come out in front of our home crowd and finally play on the baskets that we’ve been practicing on all year,” head coach Billy White Jr. said.
Copperas Cove (14-7, 2-2 8-5A) looked completely comfortable on its home court as five players recorded double-digit points, led by sophomore Rashaun Gibson’s game-high 17 points. After halftime, the Bulldawgs outscored Temple 44-21, giving the team its first home victory since Nov. 20.
The Bulldawgs opened the season’s home schedule with a victory against Pflugerville before losing to Austin LBJ on Dec. 3. The date marked the team’s last contest inside Bulldawg Gymnasium for over a month as bomb threats contributed to the extended road trip. The terroristic threats threw the entire school district into disarray, and all home games, as well as a number of practices, were relocated.
Consequently, the Bulldawgs will make up for having to unexpectedly play their pre-Christmas district game at Belton by hosting the Tigers on Jan. 25. The move gives Copperas Cove a stretch of three consecutive home games to start the second half of district before playing six of its final nine regular season games at home.
While playing on a familiar floor in front of friendly fans is an advantage, after dealing with numerous outside distractions and the holiday break during the first half of the season, White is simply happy to finally have some structure back in the everyday schedule.
“Just being able to come out and get back into a rhythm (was beneficial); coming back to school and having a normal school day and normal practices,” he said. “I think that played a lot into (our success).”
Lady Eagles escape with win, despite poor play
In the Ellison girls locker room afterward, there was a collective sigh of relief Tuesday — each and every player and coach knew they’d just escaped after playing one of their worst games of the season.
“It’s like I told them — it was ugly, (but) it was a W and we’re going to get some things straightened out,” Ellison girls coach Sherry McKinnon said.
Through the first three quarters of Tuesday night’s game against Killeen, the 17th-ranked Lady Eagles held tightly to a 29-19 advantage despite shooting just 9 of 34 (26.5 percent) from the field to that point.
Ellison — which was averaging 66.5 points per game (topping 70 four times) since the Dec. 21 loss to Temple — made just three field goals in each 8-minute quarter.
But, when the final buzzer sounded, the Lady Eagles (24-3, 5-1 12-5A) were still victorious, 46-31, thanks to an even worse offensive performance by the rival Lady Roos. Ellison was able to salvage a little statistical self respect with it’s fourth-quarter output, outscoring Killeen 17-11 on 6 of 13 shooting (46 percent).
McKinnon knows there is still plenty of work left to do if the Lady Eagles are truly going to contend for the District 8-5A crown like they envision.
To do that, though, they’ll need to keep serve with district-leading Temple (18-3, 6-0) — any way they can.
“We’re having to win every game, especially at home, we can’t let anyone come into our house and steal a win, and for a moment it kind of looked that way with the sloppy way we were playing,” McKinnon said. “We just didn’t do a very good job in some areas tonight.”
Alex Byington contributed to this report.