COPPERAS COVE — Copperas Cove extended its winning streak to eight games with two wins on the opening day of the Dawg Pound Showdown tournament Thursday.
The morning saw a rough start from the Bulldawgs as they faced Waco but they were able to overcome the early hiccups behind a combined 20 points from senior guards Neyland Block and Jyhlil Rice.
Cove then faced Cedar Ridge, who came off a 75-71 morning victory in the tournament against Medina Valley.
The Bulldawgs were first on the board and started to slowly pulled ahead but the Raiders tied the score up twice before gaining their only lead of the game behind a 3-pointer from junior guard Jauvon Pitts.
That lead only lasted 18 seconds as senior forwards Justus Honea and Frank Alvarado quickly answered back with 3-pointers of their own in back-to-back plays.
“If we’re hitting shots, nobody can stop us,” Alvarado said. “Me and Justus [sic], once we’re going, the whole team gets going… and it’s just we come out with wins, we come out beating everybody.”
By the end of the first eight minutes, Copperas Cove led 21-13.
Within the first minute of the second quarter, Cedar Ridge came out of the gate aggressive as sophomore guard Caleb Golden inbounded a long pass down the court to sophomore guard Ryan Elvin for another three points.
Honea turned around with an answer of his own, putting up another three for the Cove.
The Raiders tried to answer back but Honea rebounded under their basket and got the ball to senior guard Tyrese Cooley, who weaved through defenders to put up another two and extend the Bulldawgs lead to 10 points.
Watching Cove’s defense, whether zone or man-to-man, every player steps without hesitation or having to check where their fellow defender has moved.
“That’s all we work on is defense,” Honea said, “but trusting in your teammate is all we really need.”
“With this year’s group, we have a lot of seniors on this squad and a lot of them have played together for a long time so that’s a big part of it,” Copperas Cove head coach Billy White, Jr. said. “Just having that nucleus that have been together for a long time and understands how to play basketball and where you’re supposed to be, that’s a major factor.”
Cedar Ridge tried to chip away at Cove’s lead, but every time they found the basket, the Bulldawgs continued to keep their 10-point lead until the last three seconds of the quarter, when Honea hit a 3-pointer from the right, putting Cove up 40-27 at the halftime.
The third quarter started the same as the others with Cove on the board first as Honea found junior center Tyrese Taylor under the basket.
In the middle of the third, Honea found Alvarado on the outside for a deep 3-pointer.
Honea kept adding assists as he found senior forward Jacob Carter for an easy layup on an inbound pass extending Cove’s lead to 17 points.
Cedar Ridge kept driving towards their hoop but Alvarado and Rice doubled up the pressure on Pitts causing him to turnover the ball when with a pass out of bounds.
The Raiders tried holding onto the ball as the clock ran down at the end of the third quarter, but Rice stole the ball, drove toward the hoop before passing to Alvarado, who was called for traveling.
With eight seconds left, the call didn’t change the fact that Cove held the lead at 58-37.
Elvin started the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, trying to ignite the Raiders’ momentum. Honea retaliated with a 3-pointer of his own, but it spun the entire rim before popping back out.
Golden then put another two on the board for Cedar Ridge and their bench’s chants of “defense” started to get louder. Both Carter and Honea tried to silence the cheers with threes of their own but to no avail as senior guard Tayvion Williams hit a three pointer of his own to inch the Raiders closer to Cove.
The Bulldawgs used their first timeout of the game in the middle of the fourth quarter but Block’s pass was missed but not before a foul was called and Golden was sent to the free throw line.
Honea rebounded Golden’s second missed free throw and found Carter, who had just come off the bench moments before, for another two points.
Late in the quarter, an exchange of words down court between Jaqwuan Pits and Taylor led to an official timeout.
White took Taylor out of the game to cool down and defuse the situation as the crowd was starting to get vocal toward Pits reaction to the call.
“We just talk to them about being smart, understand big picture and what we’re out here for,” White said. “We’re out here to win basketball games we don’t care about the bickering and the talking back and forth.”
The Bulldawgs understand that it happens and don’t worry too much about it once the moment is over.
“I know going through class, having two games, it’ll wear you down a little bit,” Honea said, “but all the conditioning we do in practice leads to it so we’re good.”
Although Cove was averaging 80 percent at the free throw line, Cedar Park sent the Bulldawgs to the line six times in the last minute and a half of the game.
One late foul was blatantly obvious as Williams shoved Cooley in front of the score table drawing a reaction from the Cove crowd as to why a technical wasn’t called.
Cove ended the game as Honea was at the line shooting two with 5 seconds left on the clock, sealing the victory 75-65.
Today, Cove will face Medina Valley in the morning before taking on North Territory later that evening.
“With all preseason games, or nondistrict games, we just try to focus on us,” White said. “We try to work on the things that we do and try to execute and do everything at tiptop ability.”
When you ask if any particular team poses a threat, for the Bulldawgs, whoever they’re facing is a concern.
“All the competition we got to be concerned about, we can’t take anyone lightly,” Honea said. “But, I feel as if we can walk on and beat anybody here.”