TEMPLE — Cramps in both calves couldn’t cramp the style of Temple sophomore guard Logan Hicks.
Neither could Copperas Cove in a must-win District 8-5A game for the Wildcats.
With Temple desperate for its first district win, Hicks made three 3-point shots in a 2-minute span in the fourth quarter to push him team ahead and Marquese Whitfield blocked Montre Williams’ 3-point attempt in the final seconds as the Wildcats earned a dramatic 56-53 victory Tuesday night at Wildcat Gym.
Hicks poured in a career-best 26 points as Temple (7-11) stopped its six-game losing streak and moved back into the 8-5A playoff hunt at 1-3. Juniors Whitfield and Jordan Lee scored 11 apiece to help the Wildcats seize their first district win for first-year coach Marty Garcia.
“It feels good, but it’s just one win,” said Hicks, whose 3-point flurry helped propel Temple from a 42-35 deficit to a 49-46 advantage. “Coach always says it’s what you do the next day, so we’ve got to come to work tomorrow.”
Said Garcia: “I’m very grateful for the win. Our players made plays happen. It’s gratifying for the sole fact that I know what we demand daily from them. It’s gratifying to see them upbeat and excited.”
Hicks’ explosion countered the 25-point performance of Cove 6-6 junior Rashard Odomes. No other player scored more than eight for the Bulldawgs (11-10, 2-2), who beat reigning 8-5A champion Killeen Ellison last Friday.
“(Temple) got more loose balls than we got. It was one of those deals where they were hungry for their first win,” Cove coach Billy White said. “(Hicks) hit some big shots for them. Temple played well and got after it.”
In a topsy-turvy game of runs, Hicks notched a 3-point play and made a jump shot from inside the free throw line to give Temple a 16-8 lead through one quarter.
The left-handed Odomes displayed his full arsenal in the second quarter, dunking on back-to-back trips and making a 3 as the Bulldawgs caught the Wildcats for a 27-27 halftime deadlock.
Temple went more than 5 minutes without a field goal before Hicks’ driving banker made it 29-27. But Odomes struck for two three-point plays and Williams closed the third with a three-point play, putting Cove up 38-35 entering the fourth.
The Bulldawgs surged to a 42-35 lead with 5½ minutes remaining, at which point Temple had scored only eight points in 14½ minutes. Fortunately for the Wildcats, Hicks rescued them.
He made an NBA-range 3-pointer from the right wing, and after Lee’s three-point play Hicks hit a 3 from the right corner for a 46-44 game. Whitfield’s driving bucket tied it, then Hicks drained an off-balance, 25-foot 3 from the right wing, giving Temple the lead for good at 49-46 with 3:03 left.
“I feel like I can make any shot,” said Hicks, adding that he “just had to play through” his cramping calves. “I was always taught to shoot with confidence.”
Added Garcia: “Logan puts in his time in the gym. He definitely works at his craft. He really put us on his back and carried us. When we needed a big basket, he delivered.”
Whitfield’s inside basket made it 55-51 with 57 seconds left, then Cove had its final possession trailing 56-53 with 14.8 remaining. Temple’s defense swarmed Odomes and he passed to the left wing to Williams, whose attempt at a tying 3 was deflected off-target by a leaping Whitfield to preserve the comeback win.
Temple plays at Killeen on Friday, while Cove hosts Harker Heights.