By Jon Garrett
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE What a difference a year makes.
The last time the Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs matched up with the Belton Lady Tigers on the basketball court, Feb. 10, 2004, the game was for second place in District 13-5A.
Copperas Cove, thanks to 25 points from senior guard Jasmine Hernandez, won that contest 53-49, avenging an earlier 59-50 loss to Belton and securing the district's No. 2 seed for the Class 5A playoffs.
Those days are nothing but a fond memory now, though, for Lady Tigers head coach Randy Bell, whose team had struggled to a 4-16 record, 0-6 in 13-5A.
Without the services of departed graduates Blair Heitmiller and Karly Bridgers, the Lady Tigers dropped their 17th game of the season, 64-31, Friday at Cove (18-7, 6-1).
"We got our tails whipped," said Bell following the loss that saw his team get outscored 34-14 in the paint. "They outplayed us, outcoached us, they were ready to play. That's a good basketball team on a good run in district and we're struggling, and there is the outcome."
The game was never in doubt from the opening tip-off, thanks in large part to the play of 6-foot-1 post Brittany McKinney who played Hernandez's role from last year in the game.
The senior scored nine points in the first quarter, six on three-point plays and didn't miss her first basket from the field until there was only 2:53 to go in the third quarter.
She finished the night with a game-high 23 points and 14 boards before being pulled out of the game late in the third.
McKinney said she and her teammates performed so well because they approached the Belton game as a must-win matchup.
"All week after we beat Temple we talked about how most teams would relax after a big win like that and we knew that regardless of Belton's record, they're a better team than what their record shows," she said. "So we had to step it up and play our game and not let off of our intensity because we're in the run for a district title right now."
That intensity showed on the defensive end, where the Lady Dawgs held Lady Tigers' leading scorer Kaleigh San Miguel to three points she was 0-for-5 from the field and held Belton to three points in the third quarter, a feat they accomplished the week before against Temple.
Bell, who said his team has struggled offensively all year, was nevertheless impressed with the effort.
"A lot of that (struggling offensively) has to do with the kind of defensive pressure they're putting on you, too," he said. "And Cove puts good defensive pressure on you and that makes it very hard to get off shots. And when you don't handle that kind of pressure that well, you don't get off good shots."
Led by Danisha Akins with 12 points, the only Lady Tiger to score in double-digits in the game, Belton managed just 39 shots on the night, knocking down only 12 for a 30 percent tally from the field. Cove shot 52 percent, making 28 of 54 attempts, including 11 of 15 in the first quarter.
Chakira Gilbert (10 points), Kim Baker (nine) and Lauren Flood (seven) rounded out the leading scorers for the Lady Dawgs.
The win sets up a rematch for Cove against district-leading Bryan on Tuesday at home at 7 p.m. The sixth-ranked Lady Vikings handed the Lady Dawgs their only district loss earlier in the season and McKinney said her team is ready to re-pay the favor.
"When Bryan comes here we're gonna give it to them," she said. "We're ready."
Contact Jon Garrett at firstname.lastname@example.org