By Angel Verdejo
The Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – Rebounding can hurt.
More specifically, not rebounding or getting out-rebounded can hurt. It hurt Copperas Cove on Saturday and that played right into Ellison's hands.
The Eagles just slightly had the edge in the rebounding at the end (27-25), but Ellison made the most of nearly every rebounding opportunity and went on to beat Copperas Cove 68-56 on the road to open District 12-5A play.
"It helps tremendously – on both ends," Ellison junior Devonte Brown said of the Eagles' rebounding. "We get more shots in the offensive end. On the defensive end, we like to get it and run. So we get that defensive rebound and we're gone.
"If we don't rebound, we probably don't win, but if we rebound, we score a lot of points."
Cove was limited to numerous one-shot possessions, with the Bulldawgs shooting the same number of 3-pointers (11) in the first half as field-goal attempts inside the arc.
It wasn't just the one-shot possessions that hurt the Dawg offense, but 30 turnovers as well. Cove's struggles against the Eagles' full-court defense quickly put the Dawgs into a 13-2 hole.
The Dawgs, who got back to within four at the end of the quarter after a Derwin Graham buzzer-beating 3-pointer, turned the ball on four consecutive possessions in just over a minute, forcing a Cove timeout where coach Billy White replaced the five Dawgs on the floor.
"We kept giving them second and third shots almost every possession and we had unforced turnovers," White said. "That's what killed us in that game right there. That's been an issue for us this year and something we're addressing constantly."
It didn't get much better for Cove (10-12, 0-1), which had 16 first-half turnovers and fell behind by double digits at halftime thanks in large part to Ellison's offensive rebounding.
The Eagles (13-6, 1-0) scored immediately three times following an offensive rebound, including Eric West corralling a Jaleel Williams' missed free throw, only to get fouled going back up and hitting 1-of-2 shots from the line.
Brown and Williams, who combined for nine offensive rebounds, each had putbacks later in the quarter, as Ellison finished the half on a 8-0 run to go up 32-22.
"If you give them two or three shots, I guarantee you he's going to make at least one of them," White said. "The majority of the points that are scored on us aren't on the first shot. It's on the second and third shots."
Cove stayed with Ellison in the second half (the Eagles outscored the Dawgs 36-34), but couldn't cut the deficit back into single digits.
Brown finished with 17 points, six rebounds and five steals, while Williams led Ellison with 18 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Cameron Gunter scored 14 points, with eight in the second half (six free throws) and Shane Jones added 10 points.
"I liked how the big four played," Ellison coach Alberto Jones said of his top four scorers. "They stepped up and played well."
It's a quick turnaround for both teams, with Cove facing Temple at home Tuesday. Temple dropped its district opener to Belton, but is currently ranked No. 23 in 5A.
Ellison heads to Bryan to face the two-time defending district champions Tuesday. The Eagles can relax a little though, Brown said, because they already have their first district win.
"When you're 1-0, you can breathe a little bit going into a tough game because we have Bryan next," he said. "If we were going in 0-1, it might be a little shaky mentally and we might be forcing things. But now, we don't have to force anything."
Contact Angel Verdejo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7564.