WACO — DeSoto proved it was the better team, but Copperas Cove felt it proved a point.
After reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and drawing Texas’ top team in the opening round, the Bulldawgs let a one-point game get away in the fourth quarter as the Eagles used a 24-9 run to close out the contest, beating Copperas Cove 72-56 at McLennan Community College on Tuesday evening.
Despite having its long-awaited postseason appearance come to an abrupt end, Cory Scott believes his team delivered a message in defeat.
“It shows we can play with anybody,” the senior said. “Those guys were ranked No. 4 in the nation. If you go out and play your hardest, you can play with any team in the nation.
“I think (the Bulldawgs basketball program) is going to really build off this and, before you know it, Copperas Cove is going to win state.”
Copperas Cove head coach Billy White Jr. agreed.
“This was big for the program,” White said. “Now, the kids are able to see what playoff basketball is all about. … It gives us that much more motivation going into the offseason to know why we are working so hard.”
On paper it appeared DeSoto would run away with a victory, but Copperas Cove gave itself an opportunity to upset the No. 1 team in the state.
The Bulldawgs (20-12) entered the fourth quarter trailing 48-43 before Rashard Odomes connected on a pair of free throws and Deion Robinson picked off a pass and went the length of the floor for a layup, pulling Copperas Cove within a point, 48-47, with 7:21 remaining in the game.
Then, the Eagles displayed their dominance.
DeSoto scored 10 consecutive points and increased its cushion to 64-52 before Scott hit a floater to snap Cove’s drought of more than five minutes without a field goal.
It turned out to be the final basket of Scott’s high school career, giving him a team-high 17 points, but for the game, the Stephen F. Austin commit missed nine of his 13 field goal attempts.
“I feel like I left some stuff out there, and I’m taking this loss 100 percent,” Scott said. “I have some regrets about this game, and you should always go out on the court and give it all you have. I feel like on the offensive end, I kind of played hesitant, and I didn’t give my team everything I could have.”
Despite Scott’s struggles, the Bulldawgs kept pace with DeSoto (32-2) for three quarters.
Copperas Cove scored nine consecutive points to take a 9-3 lead early in the game, but the Eagles responded with a run of their own, taking a 17-14 advantage into the second quarter before pushing it 26-14 midway through the period.
After missing its first 10 shots of the second, Odomes, who finished with 16 points, gathered an offensive rebound and his subsequent putback gave the Bulldawgs their first field goal of the period with 3:45 remaining in the half. It also gave Copperas Cove a spark, and the Bulldawgs cut the deficit to six points, 31-25, at halftime.
Like they did earlier, however, the Eagles, who advance to face Coppell in the area round, constructed a run and led 44-31 before Odomes’ three-point play made it a 10-point game with 2:29 remaining in the quarter. The Bulldawgs’ surge would continue, and Rashaun Gibson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 48-43 entering the fourth quarter.
“When you are playing someone like (DeSoto), that is what you want to have,” White said. “You want to have a shot at the end of the game. Going into the fourth quarter, we had that opportunity.”
But the Eagles would capitalize on a size disparity down the stretch, making numerous baskets in the paint to pull away.
“They gave us everything we could handle,” DeSoto head coach Chris Dyer said. “(Easy baskets in the fourth quarter) was huge. It was the difference in the game.”
Duke commit Matt Jones scored a pair of baskets in the paint en route to a game-high 18 points, while Terry Matson (17 points) and Devin Wyatt (14 points) each feasted on offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, leading to easy points on putbacks.
White knew his team had to defend in the post if it was going to advance.
“For the first three quarters, I felt we did a pretty good job of doing that,” the coach said, “but that last quarter they were able to do some things inside that hurt us.”