COPPERAS COVE — Brenda Gomez believes her team can finally exhale.
After spending the past month working toward the singular goal of producing a strong run through the District 8-6A schedule,
Belton’s moment arrived Friday evening on the road at Copperas Cove.
The Lady Tigers did not disappoint.
Belton built a double-digit lead less than four minutes into the contest and held the Lady Bulldawgs to just six points in the second half, capturing a 45-30 victory in its district opener.
Although the Lady Tigers showed no signs of nerves during the wire-to- wire win, the Lady Tigers’ head coach knows there was apprehension entering the game.
“I really think winning your first district game does something for the team,” Gomez said. “It can be really nerve-wracking as you enter into the first district game, but this allows them to figure out they can play with anyone.
“Now, the girls have the understanding that this is the part of the season that means the most, and they need to stick to doing what they do best.”
In the second half against Copperas Cove, the Lady Tigers relied on their defense.
The Lady Bulldawgs closed the second quarter with four unanswered points to pull within five points, 29-24, but the trend did not continue after halftime.
Copperas Cove (10-6, 0-1) made just two of its 14 field-goal attempts in the third quarter before posting a single point on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
“We know Copperas Cove has a lot of great shooters,” Belton senior Cammie Moore said, “so we were focusing on closing out on them, cutting off the baseline and moving our feet.”
Lady Bulldawgs head coach Eldridge McAdams had no easy answers for his team’s performance.
“There’s no words for that,” he said. “You can’t score six points in a half of Class 6A basketball and expect to win.”
With sophomore guard Presleigh York, who finished with a team-high 11 points, making two of her three 3-pointers in the first quarter, the Lady Tigers opened a 14-4 advantage before taking a 17-11 lead into the second quarter.
Then, York connected on a pair of free throws, triggering a 7-0 outburst, but the 11-point cushion deflated to 29-24 at halftime.
The Lady Bulldawgs would not get any closer, though.
Hannah Martin made two 3-pointers in the third quarter, including one as time expired in the period, helping Belton (9-6, 1-0) outscore Copperas Cove 12-5 in the quarter, putting the Lady Tigers firmly in control.
Moore and Martin complemented York’s offensive outing by scoring nine points apiece, while junior post Elicia Jackson finished with seven points and a game-high six rebounds.
Oni Boodoo, a sophomore, was the Lady Bulldawgs’ lone player in double-figures, scoring 11 points, while teammates Madisen Honea and Jayda Carter each added five points.
Now, Belton will look to carry the momentum into Tuesday’s game at home against Harker Heights.
“This game definitely set the tone for district,” Moore said. “Hopefully, we only go up from here.
“We’re going to keep working hard and playing together, and we’ll see where we end up in the end.”