By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - Not much was working for the Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs in their season opener Tuesday.
But at least Letia Howard's shot was on.
Howard hit six 3-pointers, including two in overtime to lift the Lady Bulldawgs to a 46-45 win over the Marble Falls Lady Mustangs at Copperas Cove.
"Tia is just amazing. She has one of the quickest releases I have ever seen," said Cove coach Teresa Durham, who picked up her first win as the Lady Dawgs coach with the win. "We are trying to learn to be more patient and let offense develop, but she is one of those kids that you just let her go and run."
Cove had to play without its usual weapons in Alex Rodriguez and Shawnte Goff. Rodriguez won't be cleared until Friday due to an offseason shoulder surgery and Goff won't be eligible until Friday as well.
That made Howard's performance even more important.
And she delivered.
Howard's fifth 3-pointer of the night opened up the scoring in overtime and gave the Lady Dawgs a 37-34 lead. Marble Falls, though, scored four straight at the free-throw line - where both teams spent the majority of the night shooting a combined 60 free throws - to retake the lead.
However, Howard, who led all scorers with 21, hit her sixth 3 and then two free throws put Cove up 42-38.
It didn't seal the win.
Marble Falls sophomore Haley Stephens converted a three-point play to cut the Lady Dawgs' lead to one and then Stephens and junior post Kiara Etheridge hit back-to-back shots to give the Lady 'Stangs a 45-42 lead.
Again, Cove rallied. After a steal, April Harris drained two free throws and, with less than 10 seconds remaining, Sarai Rodriguez hit two more to put Cove in front for good.
"There was a couple of times where we could have just given up and said 'Oh well, dadgum we didn't do it,' but they battled back every time and met the challenge," Durham said. "Play was ugly, but we fought back. Give me kids like that, that won't quit and we are going to win some ball games."
The Lady 'Stangs opened the game on an 8-0 run thanks to three baskets by Etheridge, who led Marble Falls with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Howard responded. The Cove guard buried two 3s in the closing minute of the first quarter to pull Cove within 10-8.
Howard did not score again until the fourth quarter, but the Lady Dawgs tied the game at the half, 15-15, by holding Marble Falls without a field goal for the entire second quarter.
Etheridge, who sat the second quarter with foul trouble, scored five of the Lady 'Stangs' seven points to open the third quarter as Marble Falls opened up a five-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
That's when Howard got hot again, draining a 3 to pull the Lady Dawgs within one, and then hitting another to put them up 32-30.
"(Shooting 3s) is a team thing," Howard said. "If I or anyone else is open, we are going to shoot the 3. I know when I am on and when I am off and if I hadn't been on, I wouldn't have been shooting all those 3s."
Howard hit a pair of free throws to put Cove up 34-32 with less than seconds left, but Etheridge struck again as she drove to the hole and got the roll as time expired in regulation.
In the end, though, Howard couldn't be denied. She scored eight of the first 12 points in overtime as the Lady Dawgs escaped with the win.
"It feels really good (to get out of here with a win," Howard said. "It has us confident for the rest of out season."