COPPERAS COVE — D.J. Dewald knew instantly.
Despite missing his first field-goal attempt and admittedly being in the midst of shooting slump, Copperas Cove’s senior guard was certain his fortunes would change.
And they did.
With the Bulldawgs clinging to a two-point advantage late in the first half against Belton, Dewald found his rhythm, connecting on three unanswered 3-pointers to end the second quarter, and Copperas Cove never slowed down.
Spurred by Dewald’s personal 9-0 run, the Bulldawgs took a double-digit advantage into halftime en route to a 76-47 victory.
Following the game, Dewald, who was inserted into the starting lineup on senior night, confessed he felt the surge coming.
“They were playing off me,” Dewald said, “and I knew when I made the first one, they were going to keep falling.
“I haven’t been shooting well, so this brought my confidence up. It felt like everything was going to go in.”
While Dewald was not perfect, he was close, making 5 of 9 3-point attempts and finishing with a career-high 17 points his final home game.
He was not the only Bulldawgs senior to put on a show, though.
Quinton Ford recorded a game-high 33 points, making 8 of 17 3-pointers, to go with five rebounds, and fellow senior Tyrese Taylor added a 10-point, 16-rebound double-double.
But there was no doubt Dewald stole the show.
“He opened the door,” Ford said, “and everybody else just went through it. Then, we slammed it.
“After he caught fire, it just trickled down.”
Neither team could create any significant separation early, going back and forth until Copperas Cove claimed a 30-28 lead, setting the stage for Damon Hewing to find Dewald for three consecutive 3-pointers before halftime.
Then, in the third quarter, the Bulldawgs built on the 39-28 advantage by outscoring the Tigers 13-6 in the period as Dewald made two more 3-pointers.
“That momentum from the first half carried over,” Copperas Cove head coach Travis Boyce Jr. said, “and we needed that.
“If he didn’t hit those shots, we’d probably definitely been in a fight to close the game.”
Josh Rardin scored a team-high 17 points for Belton, and teammate T.J. Johnson finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds for Belton (12-21, 4-11 District 12-6A), but it was not enough.
Coupled with Ellison’s 63-49 victory at Waco, the Bulldawgs’ playoff hopes remain alive as they enter Tuesday’s regular-season finale against the Eagles tied for fourth place in the district standings with the Lions. Waco closes the season with a home game against Waco Midway.
While it will not be easy, Dewald is confident Copperas Cove (20-14, 7-8) can put itself in position to return to the postseason.
Prior to returning to the court, however, he intends to relish his senior night performance.
“It was just very special to be able to do this in front of my parents,” he said.
“They come to all my games, and for them to finally see me do this, it’s just really special."
12-6A BOYS SCORES
- Copperas Cove 76, Belton 47
- Ellison 63, Waco 49
- Temple 59, Harker Heights 48
- Waco Midway 60, Killeen 43