COPPERAS COVE Letia Howard doesn't need too much room.
And even when the Belton defenders closed the space along the 3-point line, it still wasn't enough.
Howard was too quick. The junior guard scored 23 points and connected on five 3-pointers to lead Copperas Cove past Belton 50-34 at home to open District 12-5A play. "She's just amazing and her release is so quick," Cove head coach Teresa Durham said of Howard, who made 5-of-12 3s, hitting a pair in both the second and third quarters. "Even a kid that says, 'Coach, I'm guarding her,' but she has one of the quickest releases. You back off a step or just forget where she is, and she makes it hard."
Belton (4-11, 0-1) didn't exactly forget where Howard was it's no longer a secret that she's a "shooter" most teams key on. Jasmine Baskin played the role for Cove (11-7, 1-0) last season, making 80 3-pointers and landing an all-district first team selection.
Howard's success beyond the arc also opened up room for other shooters. Sarai Rodriguez, who found Howard three times in the first half, made one of her own while Jasmine Johnson connected early in the third to help stall a Belton push.
"You have to recognize where they are," Belton head coach Brenda Gomez said. "No. 10 (Howard) good gosh. How many did she get? And then No. 14 (Rodriguez) we just back off of her like, 'OK, well that's not mine. That's your's.'
"That's another thing we're struggling with. Stop ball and then go and find your man after the ball has been stopped. It's just basic stuff that we have to work on."
Emily Hugo (six rebounds) and Kenedy Fowler led Belton with nine points each, while Bryaunea Hall added eight points, five rebounds and three blocks for Cove.
The Lady Tigers did become the aggressor out of halftime, even forced a Cove timeout early.
Cove was called for traveling on the third quarter's opening possession and Briana Ragland answered with a layup on the other end. Johnson's 3 put the Lady Dawgs up 27-15 but Kenedy Fowler came right back with one of her own to force the timeout with 6:43 left in the third.
Cove didn't score until a Howard 3-pointer nearly four minutes later, but Belton couldn't close the gap. A Emily Hugo layup cut the deficit to 27-20 with five minutes to play in the period. The Lady Tigers scored just two more points, as Howard's two 3s pushed the lead back out to 11 points, 33-22, going in to the fourth.
"We let them have that 3 again," Gomez said. "It was something that was talked about, something that was pointed out, something that was emphasized, but yet we failed to adjust.
"These kids are still learning to play physcially and mentally, and the mental part was not all there tonight."