COPPERAS COVE — Dillon Gooding’s most important basket was the one that was taken away.
After entering the third quarter trailing Copperas Cove by double digits, Harker Heights was in the midst of attempting to erase the deficit when the Knights guard made a 3-pointer.
But during the next dead ball, the referees changed the basket to a 2-point field goal.
Moments later, Gooding drained a shot from several feet behind the 3-point arc, igniting the senior and his teammates, propelling Harker Heights to a 65-62 victory.
While the basket occurred long before the final buzzer sounded, Gooding admits he felt the momentum swing in his team’s favor after the controversial reversal of his previous shot.
“It wasn’t in my head at the moment to show the refs I was behind the line,” the senior said. “I just wanted to win this game, get the team some points and keep rolling from there.
“And it just took one spark to turn things around.”
Gooding scored 16 of his game-high 29 points following the reversed 3-pointer, and the Knights rebounded from a 17-point first half to hand the Bulldawgs their third consecutive District 8-6A defeat.
Although Gooding had no intention of proving a point, Harker Heights head coach Celneque Bobbitt believes he did.
“That was justice,” Bobbitt said. “That was the basketball gods telling these refs they cheated these kids a little too much.”
The Knights (12-10, 2-2) took an 8-4 advantage into the second quarter after a slow opening quarter, but the cushion deflated as Copperas Cove used a 23-9 run bridging halftime to open a 27-17 lead.
Then, everything changed when Gooding’s reversed shot created a 38-32 contest with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Moments later, Harker Heights senior Dashawn Walker’s successful and-1 free throw tied the game 40-40.
“When we got it tied,” Bobbitt said, “I couldn’t believe we’d battled back, and we just kept telling the kids to stay focused.”
The Knights fell behind by six points on two occasions in the fourth quarter, including at 57-51, but it did not matter.
Despite Copperas Cove (22-4, 1-3) receiving 19 of its 45 free-throw attempts in the final period as Harker Heights battled foul trouble, the Bulldawgs missed seven times in quarter, and the Knights capitalized, scoring 14 of the game’s final 19 points.
The outcome spoiled a 24-point performance from Copperas Cove junior Quinton Ford, who recorded 13 points in the fourth quarter.
But Bulldawgs head coach Billy White Jr. is not concerned with the way his team is finishing games.
“Our starts have been killing us,” he said. “We’ve started extremely slow in these last three games, and it is costing us in the end.
Walker complemented Gooding’s outing by scoring 17 points to go with five rebounds, while teammate Jaylin Glover finished with seven points.
“This is a real great feeling,” Gooding said, “because this shows me how great we can be. We just beat a good team on the road, and that’s going to give us the momentum to finish district strong.
“This is just going to kick things off for us.”
District 8-6A Boys Scores
- Belton 64, San Angelo Central 51
- Ellison 75, Killeen 63
- Harker Heights 65, Copperas Cove 62
- Shoemaker 73, Waco Midway 60