Shoemaker practiced at 5:30 this morning.
It did not matter how early it was, Grey Wolves coach Marc Minatrea knew his team needed it — especially if they want a share of the District 8-5A title.
Because the Grey Wolves looked like a team on cruise control as it eked out a 56-49 win over last-place Temple on Friday at Shoemaker.
“We need to practice,” Minatrea said. “If you don’t play well or hard it is always frustrating. We did not play hard from the beginning. ... We had a bad start. We were sluggish and we were going through the motions.
“I guess we thought we won the NBA championship when we beat Ellison.”
And according to Minatrea, that is not going to get it done against Copperas Cove, which moved into a tie for fourth place in the district after it dismantled Killeen 70-41.
“If you got kids testing early, you got to practice early,” Minatrea said. “We practice at 7 a.m. every morning, they just have to get up a little earlier. I just want to see them play hard and with effort.”
Temple started the game on fire, leading 11-5 after three different players drained 3-pointers. But, Shoemaker senior Paris Yerry hit back-to-back 3s to tie the game with 1:25 left in the first quarter. Then Shane Johnson got three straight buckets to start the second quarter and put the Grey Wolves (25-7, 11-2 8-5A) up 20-15.
That lead was as short-lived as Temple’s original.
Chad President scored on a fast break and Marques Cooks nailed a 3 to tie the game back up
midway through the second, but Shoemaker had the lead going into the half, after Renard Thomas hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left.
The Wildcats (9-19, 1-12) got hot again, though.
Wendale Washington hit a 3 as Temple embarked on an 14-2 run in the first 4½ minutes of the third quarter. President scored five and Kaelen Nealy, who led Temple with 13 points, added four during the run.
“We were just doing what we say we want to do all the time, play good solid defense and let them make mistakes,” Temple coach Eric Jackson said.
Shoemaker battled back again. The Grey Wolves ripped off a 11-0 run of their own over the next 2½ minutes that was capped by a 3-pointer by Patrick Mark.
“It was not a cool off. We just turned the ball over,” Jackson said. “If you turn the ball over you don’t get those opportunities.”
From there, the game went back and forth. Nykolas Dawson got a putback and then Washington hit a pair of free throws. Paris Yerry drained a 3-pointer and then President, who added 11 for Temple, scored four straight points.
In the final two minutes, Shoemaker made its move.
Johnson got a putback and then Sean Causey got a steal and drove the lane for an and-one that gave Shoemaker a 53-49 lead with a minute to go.
“It just comes down to veteran leadership. We have a lot of older guys, but not a lot of veteran leaders,” Jackson said. “In games of this nature, you need those leaders to step up. Tonight, there guys stepped up and made baskets, and that made a big difference.”
Dawson got another putback and Thomas hit a free throw to seal the win for the Grey Wolves.
“It just came down to working hard and doing what coach told us to do,” Dawson said. “We couldn’t lose to a lesser team. ... We will (beat Cove). We just have to practice hard.”