BELTON — Before the Belton Lady Tigers could begin to make a push against Copperas Cove, they had to get out of their own way.
With 23 turnovers, the Lady Tigers had difficulty finding a rhythm offensively.
Meanwhile, the Lady Dawgs found their game on both of ends of the court to pick up a key 44-32 victory Tuesday night at Tiger Gym.
Copperas Cove (21-7, 6-3) remains near the top of the District 12-6A race. Belton (16-12, 5-4 has lost four of its last five district games.
“We had people open, we just didn’t pass it to them,” said Belton coach Brenda Gomez. “With 23 turnovers you’re not going to win many games in mid-January.”
The Lady Dawgs were able to penetrate the lane, primarily with guard Madison Griffon driving and either scoring or dishing to Kaysha McCloud in the low block. That pair combined for 29 points. The Lady Dawgs avenged the loss it suffered to the Lady Tigers in the district opener in Copperas Cove.
“The first time we didn’t play well, didn’t shoot well,” said Cove coach Eldridge McAdams. “We tweaked some things and our defense played into our offense.”
Belton led 8-6 after the first quarter, but the Lady Dawgs took charge in the second quarter and beyond. Cove went on a 10-1 run to start the quarter with buckets from McCloud and Jayda Carter. Griffon pumped in the final seven unanswered points of the half and the Lady Dawgs led 23-11 at the break.
The Lady Tigers slowly got back into striking distance in the third quarter with a 10-3 spurt in the first seven minutes of the frame. Natasha Blizzard, who led all scorers with 17 points, got inside for three baskets. Taylin Wesley canned a 3-pointer and Risha Rice added a free throw to pull the Lady Tigers within five, 26-21.
Griffon, however, connected on two pull-up jumpers in the final minute to push the Lady Dawgs’ lead to 30-21 heading into the final eight minutes.
“It was back and forth,” McAdams said. “We were able to make shots in the paint and a couple of threes and that was good.”
Gomez expected to Cove to bounce back from the first meeting.
“They’ll get in the paint because of their ability to shoot from the outside,” she said. “We never did rotate to guard the person in the paint.”
Belton wasn’t able to significantly cut into Cove’s lead the rest of the way. Free throws by Wesley and Blizzard got the Lady Tigers within eight, 32-24, in the first two minutes. Cove went on a 10-4 to achieve the separation it needed to close out the game. Blizzard scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half.
The Lady Tigers are back home on Friday to face another district title contender in Harker Heights, which they also defeated in the opposing gym in December.
“We just had too many turnovers right off the bat,” Gomez said. “You can’t lose at this point expect to hang out in the top three. We’re just going to watch a ton of film.”