For the first time in a long time, Copperas Cove is going to have home-court advantage. And the Lady Bulldawgs are going to need it.

After winning all four District 8-5A games on the road due to repeated bomb threats at CCISD campuses forcing the relocation of a pair of scheduled home games, Copperas Cove (17-6 overall) faces a favorable upcoming schedule with seven of its final 10 games at home.

The home-heavy conclusion to the season ensures little, however, as the Lady Bulldawgs face a potentially season-defining stretch over the upcoming two weeks.

With a combined district record of 9-3, Ellison, Temple and Harker Heights await Copperas Cove to finish the first round of district play, marking a significant increase in the overall competition level after opening against teams that have lost 10 of 13 district games.

The Lady Bulldawgs begin the run Friday against the No. 11 Lady Eagles (21-3, 3-1) in the first home game for Copperas Cove since Nov. 27 before returning to the road against fellow district unbeaten Temple. Ranked 15th, the Lady Wildcats (19-5) will be the final road opponent for Copperas Cove until Jan. 29.

Harker Heights (2-2) concludes the first round of district play, but the Lady Bulldawgs’ open the second half with a difficult draw against Killen (13-7, 3-1) before hosting currently winless district teams – Shoemaker, Waco Midway and Belton – in three consecutive games.

Since defeating Belton 57-45 on Dec. 21, Copperas Cove went 2-2 at the McDonald’s All-Star Tournament at Bryan, and Lady Bulldawgs head coach Teresa Durham believes the midseason break allowed her team to fine tune without the pressure of district competition looming.

“We’ve got three very tough ballgames against three very good teams coming up,” Durham. “(During the bye week), we got to get all the kinks out, hopefully, and got rid of some of the Christmas cookies and will be ready to go.”

Killeen has built off success at Bastrop tournament

A Killeen Lady Roos team that started 4-8 last season went on to win a share of its third district title in four years and 12 of its final 15 regular season games, beginning with four straight and the title at the G.M. Blackman tournament in Bastrop after Christmas. That tournament, traditionally, has been a spark to whatever success Killeen (13-7, 3-1 8-5A) has enjoyed in recent years.

This year, they came into the tournament on a three-game winning streak, but already more than halfway through their first slate of District 8-5A games. The Lady Roos weren’t able to defend their 2011 tournament title after dropping a 51-50 first-round loss to Austin High on Friday.

Killeen, however, did win back-to-back games on Saturday (57-38 over Hutto and 48-39 over 2A-No. 3 Poth) and re-enters the district fray next Friday at home against Belton having won five of its previous six games and anxious to see what happens this year after another fairly successful run through to the G.M. Blackburn tournament in 2012.

Defense key for Lady Eagles

All season, the Ellison Lady Eagles have parlayed an in-your-face aggressiveness on defense into lopsided victories, winning 21 of their first 24 games and the San Marcos Tournament championship over the weekend.

But before the Christmas break, No. 11 Ellison received a rude awakening and a little bit of their own medicine from fellow District 8-5A contender Temple in the form of a 48-40 loss at home.

The Lady Eagles responded, though, getting back to what has carried them to a top 20 ranking for much of the season and rolled through the San Marcos tournament by an average of 30.25 points while holding all four teams under 40 points.

Ellison has only allowed six teams to top the 40-point mark this season — three of which were losses to San Antonio Reagan, top-ranked Pflugerville and Temple.

Lady Eagles head coach Sherry McKinnon knows that winning the 8-5A championship may come down to returning the favor against the Tem-Cats on the road on Jan. 25, but first Ellison must continue its strong defensive play in its return to district action Friday at Copperas Cove.

Kevin Posival and Alex Byington contributed to this report.

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