COPPERAS COVE — Local basketball fans didn’t have travel far to enjoy a day full of professional basketball.
The American Basketball Association, a semi-pro men’s league, hosted the first round of the playoffs Saturday at the Camp Triumph Gym in Copperas Cove.
Six teams from around the state of Texas, and some even as far as Louisiana, came to town to compete in the play-in playoff bracket.
Central Texas was represented by the Texas Nighthawks, a team that started playing out of Temple before relocating to Copperas Cove last season.
Nighthawks owner Jason Grant thought having a team in the Fort Hood area made a lot of sense.
“A lot of families — you know (Army) privates — they can’t afford a San Antonio Spurs or a Dallas Mavericks,” he said. “So
having a professional ABA team here — and the tickets are only like $10 — it’s just great.”
The Nighthawks entered the playoffs with a 6-3 record and closed out the first night of competition facing the defending champion Kyle Stallions (5-4).
Leading the Nighthawks was former Killeen High standout Cedric Brooks, who has been playing professional basketball for more than 10 years. The Nighthawks guard dropped in 30 points and had 15 assists Saturday.
“It’s big,” Brooks said of the opportunity to play in Central Texas. “I’ve always wanted to play professionally, locally.
“I played overseas, but everybody who follows me, my fans, they can’t see me, can’t watch me, so moving back here ... it’s been great.”
Happy to play in front of a hometown crowd, Brooks and his Nighthawks teammates put on a show in the final two minutes.
The Stallions came back from an early deficit in the first quarter to lead the Nighthawks 75-66 at halftime.
Although Kyle stayed ahead early in the second half, the Nighthawks fought rallied within two points, 100-98, in the middle of the third quarter.
The Stallions found a second wind late in the quarter, but Brooks hit a deep shot at the top of the arc to get the Nighthawks within two, 114-112, as the teams headed into the final quarter.
The energy shifted in the gym as the Nighthawks battled back in the first six minutes of the quarter to regain the lead, 134-126.
With 2:51 remaining, the Nighthawks led 142-140.
Moments later, Mark Martez recovered a rebound and sent the ball soaring down court to Brooks for a basket that jump-started a 12-2 run and the Nighthawks won 155-146.
Although the Nighthawks opened with a 15-9 lead, the Stallions continued to stay close as Dallen Dempsy scored 14 points to bring Kyle within a point at the end of the first quarter, 38-37.
Joseph Franklin led the Stallions with 36 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.
The afternoon started with the Alexandria Armor advancing to the second round with a 138-116 win over the Twin City Jazz.
The Tri-City All Stars, out of Austin, advanced to face the Armor at Camp Triumph this afternoon at 4 p.m. with a 142-127 win over the Houston Red Storm.
The Nighthawks advance to the second round of the playoffs with their first game scheduled next weekend.
General admission is $10, military and students are $5 with an ID, and children 5 and under get in free.
For more information, follow the Texas Nighthawks on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/texasnighthawks.