BELTON — The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs tried to test the Belton Tigers in a 3-point shooting contest. The only problem was the Bulldawgs struggled to make theirs until it was too late.
The Bulldawgs hit just one of 16 3-pointers in the opening half, allowing the Tigers to take a 10-point halftime lead. And the Tigers held on to the lead late when the Dawgs finally started connecting en route to a 58-53 win Tuesday in a District 12-6A match up at Tiger Gym.
“You are kind of seeing these guys grow up before your eyes,” Belton coach Jason Fossett said. “Our lone senior fouled out and we have a lot of underclassmen who haven’t been in these situations. We could have easily crumbled at the end but they found a way to stick it out and win.”
The Tigers (10-15, 2-5 12-6A) led by as many as 14 early in the fourth quarter, but Cove’s aggressive defense was able to chip away at the lead, cutting it to 53-44 with 3 minutes to play, the first time it had been less than 10 since 24.2 seconds to go in the first half.
Belton then committed three straight turnovers, with Cove (16-10, 3-4) scoring on each, to cut the lead to 53-51 with 43.1 seconds to play, the last off a basket by 6-foot-7 post Tyrese Taylor. But that was as far as the comeback got, as Belton was able to hang on to the ball and converted five of six free throws to seal the win.
“Our guys fought hard to come back but when you get yourself in a bad situation, it’s difficult,” said Copperas Cove coach Travis Boyce, whose team was four-of-28 from 3-point range. “We couldn’t make the shots tonight, and as long as I’ve been at Cove, from my playing days to now, Copperas Cove has struggled to shoot in this gym. I don’t know what it is.”
The Bulldawgs led 10-8 thanks to the one 3 they did make, one free throw and six points in the paint, but then Belton, and specifically freshman TJ Johnson, took over.
Johnson scored 11 of his game-high 25 points in the second quarter and Belton took a 25-15 lead into the half.
“It’s team effort,” Johnson said. “I’m not real worried about how much I score, I just want to win.
“It feels good because we had our doubts, but we now know we can compete with anybody in this district.”
TUESDAY'S 12-6A BOYS
- Belton 58, Copperas Cove 53
- Temple 69, Harker Heights 66
- Waco 60, No. 16 Ellison 46
- Waco Midway 66, Killeen 51