COPPERAS COVE — Copperas Cove and Belton each opened up the first day of the Bush’s Chicken Classic with a pair of wins.
With a larger district calendar this season, area coaches can use the three-day tournament to polish up their teams’ performance on the court before District 12-6A competition begins.
“Since we have nine teams in the district, we’re starting a little bit earlier with the district season,” Belton head coach Brenda Gomez said. “It’s super important that you apply everything that you’re going to do in district here and become efficient with it.”
And while coaches aim to simulate in-game situations in practice, nothing replaces competition.
“The main thing is playing games,” Copperas Cove head coach Eldridge McAdams said. “You can run a lot in practice and all those different drills, but there’s nothing like getting in game shape.
“And then, of course, you get a chance to play good, competitive teams too.”
The Tigers opened up the tournament with an early morning 62-31 win over El Paso Bel Air.
Belton’s second matchup had similar results as the Tigers faced Del Valle in the afternoon, in which the Tigers started with a 15-3 run.
The Lady Cardinals were held to only five points in the first eight minutes with all coming from free throws.
Belton pulled ahead 30-22 at halftime behind strong performances from Jarisha Rice and Natasha Blizzard. Rice led the Tigers defense as she accounted for three steals in the first half, while Blizzard led the offense with 10 points and added six rebounds.
While Belton pulled further ahead after the break, defensively they held the Lady Cardinals to just five points that came in the last two minutes of the quarter.
Del Valle couldn’t catch up as the Tigers ended the night with a 67-37 victory.
Ending the first day of tournament competition 2-0 is a great confidence booster moving ahead over the upcoming days of competition, but Gomez and her team are focused on winning in terms of executing on the floor.
“We’re continuously coaching and, I feel, they know that if they’re doing it right, no matter what the scoreboard says, then it’s going to something that will definitely reflect in district,” Gomez said.
Copperas Cove had much closer games as it opened up tournament play with a 68-61 win over Manor.
The Lady Bulldawgs’ second win of the day came against Leander Rouse, but it wasn’t decided until the fourth quarter, though.
Both teams exchanged 3-pointers to open up the contest. Madisen Honea sank the first one for the Lady Bulldawgs and Lady Raiders’ Bonnie Nelon answered with a 3-pointer of her own.
Jayda Carter hit back-to-back three’s to pull Copperas Cove ahead 9-8.
Both Leah Powell and Az Knotts helped distance the host team, but a late 3-pointer from Lady Raiders’ Cailyn Kieper tied the score at 15-15 at the end of the first quarter.
Copperas Cove fought to pull ahead as Carter and Madison Griffon each added shots from the perimeter, but Rouse closed the game to just three points, 30-27, before halftime.
The Lady Raiders came out of halftime and took a two-point lead until Deja Chapman added a 3-pointer of her own to give the lead back to Lady Bulldawgs.
The score was tied once again at 38-38 going into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Raiders opened up the final quarter with Nelon hitting another 3-pointer, but Copperas Cove had an answer as Griffon made a shot from the outside left corner before stealing the ball, driving up the middle and finding Honea open in the same corner for a 3-pointer of her own.
Leading 44-43, the Lady Bulldawgs found some momentum after Griffon stole the ball at half court before passing to Carter underneath the hoop.
Griffon was sent to the free-throw line on three separate plays, sinking all six shots and, along with a layup from Honea, gave Copperas Cove its largest lead at 56-46 with just under two minutes remaining in the game.
The Lady Bulldawgs won 62-46.
“Any time you can come out and get the wins, the amount of games is kind of like a bonus for us,” McAdams said. “We get a chance to let different people play, see what works and doesn’t work and allow younger kids to get some playing time.”
The Lady Tigers open play today at 9 a.m., while the Lady Bulldawgs will face San Antonio Stevens at noon before playing Del Valle at 5 p.m.