HILLSBORO — The culture has changed at Copperas Cove.
After suffering through a five-year postseason absence, the Bulldawgs snapped the streak last year. This season, they made it to the playoffs again.
But reaching the postseason is no longer enough.
“We’re past that point,” Copperas Cove head coach Billy White Jr. said. “It came down to that this year, but it is past that. We understand that we are just as good as everybody else in our district, if not better, and we want to go out and prove it on a nightly basis.”
Although the program’s collective mentality has changed, the result remained the same as the Bulldawgs’ season concluded in the bi-district round of the Class 5A playoffs for a second consecutive year as Duncanville earned a 64-57 victory against the Bulldawgs at Hillsboro High School on Tuesday evening.
Despite the defeat, Copperas Cove junior Rashard Odomes agrees with his coach.
“When I first got here, we hadn’t made the playoffs in a while,” he said. “The seniors helped change that last year. Now, our goal has to be to win in the playoffs.”
Odomes and the five other players eligible to return must wait at least one more year, however, before experiencing a postseason victory.
Panthers standout Omar Sherman finished with a 21-point, 16-rebound double-double and blocked five shots while preventing the Bulldawgs from getting any easy shots inside, especially in the second quarter.
After ending the opening quarter with a 15-13 lead, Copperas Cove went cold from the floor, missing 10 of its 13 field-goal attempts in the period, and Duncanville used a 15-3 run before halftime to build a 36-22 advantage. Bulldawgs senior Montre’ Williams connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to trim the deficit to 11 points, 36-25, heading into the third quarter.
“They came out and wanted it more,” said Williams of the Panthers’ second-quarter performance. “They got a big lead, and we just had to keep fighting to try and get it back.”
The Bulldawgs (18-15) outscored Duncanville 10-4 in the third quarter, pulling within three points at 36-33, but could not get any closer.
The Panthers (19-11) answered with an 11-4 run bridging the third and fourth quarters before continually hitting timely shots to wrestle the momentum away from Copperas Cove.
“We went cold and went without a bucket for a few possessions,” White said. “That hurt us because in those same few possessions that we went without scoring, they hit some buckets.”
Williams finished with a game-high 26 points to go with five rebounds, four assists and three steals, while teammate Odomes added 15 points and five rebounds. But no other Bulldawgs scored more than four points.
While Copperas Cove is graduating four seniors, who all played significant roles this season, White is excited about what awaits his program.
“The future is bright,” he said. “We have a lot of great kids in our program, both young and old. We hate to lose the seniors we are losing, but at the same time, I’m happy with the guys we are returning.”