By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - Austin St. Stephen's struggled early from the foul line Monday night against Copperas Cove.
But that wasn't the only reason the Spartans lost 98-51 on the road, even though Albert Almanza finished with 27 points.
The Bulldawgs (3-2) had plenty to do with it as well.
They pressured St. Stephen's (1-2) the entire length of the court and used some well-timed 3-pointers to essentially put the game away early.
"When you face that kind of pressure, it's going to force you into mistakes and that's what happened," Spartans coach LaMont King said. "Even when we missed, they would get back quickly and pressure you on the other end."
Cove forced 16 Spartan turnovers - 12 in the first half, while St. Stephen's couldn't take advantage when they were given at free points. The Spartans were in the bonus for all of the second quarter, but were 6 of 19 from the foul line in the first two periods.
"With the exception of No. 33 (Almanza) hitting those shots right there, I though the defense was fine," Cove head coach Billy White said. "Try to get up and pressure, cause turnovers and make them shoot contested shots. And fortunately tonight, we were able to do that."
The Spartans, after scoring on three straight possessions, led 6-5 two minutes into the game on the second of consecutive Carl Austin baskets.
That was the last time they led. A Cory Scott 3-pointer gave Cove back the lead 20 seconds later. After a Kofi Asante layup cut Cove's lead to 10-8, Rashard Odomes nailed a 3 from the left corner and Cedric Carlisle followed with another from the right wing to stretch the lead to 16-8 and a Spartan timeout.
Cove finished with five from beyond the arc in the first quarter, while forcing nine turnovers and limiting the Spartans to just two made baskets following the timeout.
Nine times after a Spartan turnover, the Dawgs answered with points on the other end, a few on layups after Cove got a steal and quickly went the other way.
"Overall, I was pleased with the way they were getting up and down the floor and trying to push the tempo, because that's one of the things we look to do," White said.
Cove lead 47-22 at halftime and followed with a 28-point third quarter. By then, the Spartans were nearly reduced to Almanza bringing the ball down the court, working off a screen and shooting jumpers. He had 11 points in the third quarter and 17 of his total in the second half.
White didn't have his defense do anything special or tricky against Almanza - he simply had the Dawgs guard. Almanza scored seven points during a six-possession stretch in which St. Stephen's scored every time down the floor. But by the time he made back-to-back deep jumpers though, his second shot only cut Cove's lead to 33 points.
"We could easily change defense and do some things, but in a situation where we have a comfortable lead, we want to work on us," White said. "So in these game-time situations, we're going to go out there and play."
All 11 Dawgs scored, with four reaching double figures. Freshman Rashard Odomes led the way with 19 points, while Ryen King added 16. The two, along with Deion Robinson, each hit a pair of 3-pointers, while Cory Scott made three.
"They tried to zone us some so we didn't get a whole lot of opportunities to go inside," White said. "So they took those shots from the outside and the shots were falling tonight. It's a situation where we have a group of kids we feel can shoot pretty good and tonight they were falling."