HARKER HEIGHTS — Harker Heights was ready for a battle Tuesday.
And visiting Copperas Cove, eager to avenge a loss on its home floor earlier this season, gave the Knights exactly what they were looking for.
Yet despite a poor finish, No. 13 Heights was able to hold on for a 76-67 victory Tuesday in a slugfest that saw the teams combine to shoot 65 free throws, including 33 in the fourth quarter.
“We knew it was going to be scrappy,” Heights senior Josh DeLaney said. “We just had to knuckle up, keep our dribble tight and force less turnovers.”
The win helped Heights (23-4, 9-3 8-5A) keep pace with Shoemaker for first place in District 8-5A while Cove (15-14) fell to 6-6 but maintained a game lead on Ellison for fourth place thanks to the Grey Wolves defeating the Eagles.
After Rashard Odomes hit two free throws to pull Cove within 60-56 with 5:06 to play, the game devolved into a free throw shooting contest, and Heights was able to pull away at the line.
But Heights coach Celneque Bobbitt still wasn’t happy with the Knights’ 59 percent free throw shooting in the final quarter.
“What I’m more disappointed about is our lack of execution at the end of the game and our lack of free throw shooting,” Bobbitt said, “because that’s going to come in to haunt us if my best players can’t go up there and make two dang free throws.”
Prior to the slow ending, the game was a seesaw contest as Heights busted the game open with an 8-2 run in the second, which Davon Clare capped with a steal and pass ahead to Cameron DeLaney for a one-handed jam and a 29-19 lead.
But after Heights went into the half up 36-28, Cove began the third quarter with an 8-0 run that ended with Elijah Sobers stealing the ball after a Heights defensive rebound and laying it in to knot the score at 36 at the 5:07 mark.
“They’re relentless. They’ve been relentless all year,” Bulldawg coach Billy White Jr. said of his team. “The unfortunate thing is we just wait until we get down to start playing like that.”
Heights went up as many as five before Cove pulled within 43-42 on a pair of Montre’ Williams free throws, two of his 20 points on the night, with 2:26 remaining in the third.
Then the Knights unleashed a 10-0 run that Cameron DeLaney capped again, this time with a 3-pointer for a 53-42 lead.
“We had a nice run, then they had a nice run,” Josh said. “Like Coach always says, the game is a game of runs, so all we had to do was keep our composure, keep that lead and listen to the coach and that’s what we did.”
After Cove pulled within 60-56 on the free throws by Odomes, who scored a game-high 25 points, Heights scored eight of the next 11 points to pull away for good, going up 68-59 on a Josh layup with 1:54 to play.
Cameron led Heights with 22 points while Josh had 20 points and six assists. C.J. Bobbitt added 14 for the Knights.
Heights will play its home finale Friday when it hosts Belton as the Knights look to close out an undefeated home season.