By Angel Verdejo
The Cove Herald
Letia Howard doesn't need too much room.
And even when the Belton defenders closed the space along the 3-point line, it still wasn't enough.
Howard was too quick. The junior guard scored 23 points and connected on five 3-pointers to lead Copperas Cove past Belton 50-34 at home to open District 12-5A play.
"She's just amazing and her release is so quick," Cove head coach Teresa Durham said of Howard, who made 5-of-12 3s, hitting a pair of both the second and third quarters. "Even a kid that says, 'Coach, I'm guarding her,' but she has one of the quickest releases. You back off a step or just forget where she is, and she makes it hard."
Belton (4-11, 0-1) didn't exactly forget where Howard was - it's no longer a secret that she's a "shooter" most teams key on. Jasmine Baskin played the role for Cove (11-7, 1-0) last season, making 80 3-pointers and landing an all-district first team selection.
Howard's success beyond the arc also opened up room for other shooters. Sarai Rodriguez, who found Howard three times in the first half, made one of her own while Jasmine Johnson connected early in the third to help stall a Belton push.
"You have to recognize where they are," Belton head coach Brenda Gomez said. "No. 10 (Howard) - good gosh. How many did she get? And then No. 14 (Rodriguez) - we just back off of her like, 'Okay, well that's not mine. That's your's.'
"That's another thing we're struggling with. Stop ball and then go and find your man after the ball has been stopped. It's just basic stuff that we have to work on."
Emily Hugo (six rebounds) and Kenedy Fowler led Belton with nine points each, while Bryaunea Hall added eight points, five rebounds and three blocks for Cove.
The Lady Tigers did become the aggressor out of halftime, even forced a Cove timeout early.
Cove was called for traveling on the third quarter's opening possession and Briana Ragland answered with a layup on the other end. Johnson's 3 put the Lady Dawgs up 27-15 but Kenedy Fowler came right back with one of her own to force the timeout with 6:43 left in the third.
Cove didn't score until a Howard 3-pointer nearly four minutes later, but Belton couldn't close the gap. A Emily Hugo layup cut the deficit to 27-20 with five minutes to play in the period. The Lady Tigers scored just two more points, as Howard's two 3s pushed the lead back out to 11 points (33-22) going in to the fourth.
"We let them have that 3 again," Gomez said. "It was something that was talked about, something that was pointed out, something that was emphasized, but yet we failed to adjust.
"These kids are still learning to play physcially and mentally, and the mental part was not all there (Tuesday)."
4A No. 20 Lake Travis 70, Copperas Cove 58 (Tuesday) - At Lakeway, Cory Scott and Rashard Odomes had 18 and 12 points, respectively, for the Bulldawgs, but it wasn't enough on the road against the 20th-ranked team in Class 4A. Cove (7-5) led 21-18 after one quarter and was down just three going into the fourth, but Lake Travis outscored the Dawgs 19-10 in the final eight minutes to pull away. The Cavaliers made 20-of-24 free throws.
Cove went 2-1 last weekend at the Bob Hayes' Jaguar Classic at Austin LBJ.
Bulldawgs 53, Austin Hyde Park Baptist 48 (Dec. 9) - Cory Scott hit seven of the Bulldawgs' nine 3-pointers and finished with 26 points in leading Cove past the Panthers.
Cove jumped out to a 17-8 lead in the first quarter, giving itself the cushion it need. Rashard Odomes added 10 points, while Tyler Wilson had eight and the other two 3-pointers.
Katy Seven Lakes 83, Bulldawgs 56 (Dec. 9) - Rashard Odomes and Deion Robinson led the way with 19 and 14 points, respectively, but a 23-10 third quarter from Seven Lakes all but put Cove away.
Seven Lakes scored at least 22 points in every quarter except the second.
Dawgs 93, Houston Girls & Boys Prepatory Academy 58 (Dec. 8) - Cove made 11 3-pointers, including four from Scott, to win its tournament game. Scott scored a game-high 24 points and led three other Dawgs in double figures. Robinson had 14 points, Odomes added 12 and Michael Shipman had 11. In all, 10 different players scored for Cove.