COPPERAS COVE — Du’Wain Thomas envisioned it. Then, he experienced it.
Shortly after Copperas Cove completed a 14-point comeback by tying the game 50-50, Shoemaker’s senior guard found himself at the free-throw line, looking to steal back momentum with 6.9 seconds remaining in regulation.
Despite the pressure of the moment, Thomas felt prepared.
After all, he expected it to happen.
“I’ve been constantly in the gym,” Thomas said, “just shooting free throws. I knew this game might come down to free throws.
“I knew I might have to step up and knock down some shots.”
And he did.
Thomas connected on both attempts, giving the Grey Wolves a 52-50 victory after a desperation 3-pointer fell short for the Bulldawgs, who lost their second consecutive game after entering the week on a 16-game win streak.
Although withstanding Copperas Cove’s late-game surge was not easy, Shoemaker first-year head coach Brandon Gilbert believes it was necessary.
“We’ve talked about situations like this in practice,” he said, “and we’ve talked about it and talked about it and talked about it.
“So, for them to stay poised was big for us, because I’m still getting guys to learn how to be leaders.”
Early on, however, multiple Grey Wolves were contributing.
Shoemaker (11-7, 2-1 District 8-6A) scored the first 11 points of the game as junior Jwan Roberts, who finished with 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks, scored seven of his 11 points in the first quarter. The Grey Wolves extended their advantage to 14 points, 27-13, early in the second quarter.
The Bulldawgs trimmed the deficit to 33-28 by halftime and shaved another point off to enter the final period trailing 46-42.
With 2 minutes, 24 seconds remaining, Copperas Cove senior Justus Honea’s 3-pointer pulled the Bulldawgs within a point at 48-47, but Shoemaker responded as Thomas found Jalen Childs for a basket.
Then, Copperas Cove (22-3, 1-2) created the only tie of the contest as Quinton Ford scored three unanswered points for the Bulldawgs at the free-throw line, tying the score 50-50 with 44.8 seconds on the clock.
Following a pair of timeouts, Gilbert admitted he wanted the ball in Thomas’ hands with time expiring.
“I told him that it’s his senior year,” he said, “and he needed to take it. If something is not open, then he needed to take it without worrying about anybody else because Coach told him to go and make a play.
“And that’s what he did, and I appreciate it.”
Childs finished with a team-high 13 points to complement Thomas’ 10-point performance, including a 5-for- 5 showing from the free-throw line. Additionally, junior Romeo Postell scored 12 points.
Copperas Cove received a game-high 15 points from junior Quinton Ford and a dozen from Honea, but it was not enough to overcome Thomas’ composure in the contest’s closing moments.
“This was a competitive atmosphere,” he said, “but I believe in myself, and I have confidence in myself.
“When it comes down to it, we stay focused and finish games.”
FRIDAY’S 8-6A BOYS SCORES
- No. 13 Ellison 37, Harker Heights 35
- Killeen 76, San Angelo Central 60
- Shoemaker 52, Copperas Cove 50
- Waco Midway 61, Belton 37
FRIDAY’S 8-6A GIRLS SCORES
- No. 16 Copperas Cove 58, Shoemaker 35
- No. 9 Ellison 47, Harker Heights 45
- San Angelo Central 50, Killeen 39
- No. 21 Waco Midway 45, Belton 33